Hearing loss claims
Our hearing is a delicate instrument which can be damaged by excessive noise. A sudden, sharp noise will cause instant damage but so will exposure to loud noise over a long period of time.
There are many causes of noise related hearing loss which include work environments.
Anyone who works in a noisy environment such as a factory, construction site or warehouse is subject to a high degree of noise. Everyone’s tolerance to noise is different and what causes problems for one person has no effect on someone else.
But if you have been exposed to excessive noise levels at work which have resulted in hearing loss then you may be entitled to compensation.
Cause of hearing loss
Our ears detect noise in the form of sound waves which pass into the ear as a series of vibrations. The ear contains millions of tiny hair cells which detect these sounds and move in response to them.
These vibrations pass through the ear where they are converted into signals which are transmitted to the brain. The brain interprets these signals as speech or noise.
But if your ears are exposed to excessive levels of noise then this damages the hair cells which prevent them from detecting these sounds. This affects your ability to hear properly.
Sound levels are measured in decibels (db). Any noise over 80 decibels is classed as potentially damaging. The higher the decibel levels the louder the noise.
An example: a pneumatic drill is around 100 decibels which is considered very loud and likely to damage one’s hearing.
Age related hearing loss
One thing to bear in mind is that our hearing does decline as we age. This is a normal part of the ageing process and occurs after a lifetime of wear and tear.
An indication of this is if you find it difficult to understand what someone is saying or have to run the volume up on the radio or television.
The medical term for this is ‘presbyacusis’.
This will be taken into account in any compensation claim; but if your hearing loss has occurred due to a noisy work environment as well as the ageing process then still make a claim for compensation.
Employer duty of care
Your employer has a responsibility to ensure that you and your colleagues are protected against excessive noise levels. They should be aware that excessive noise can damage hearing and result in partial or complete deafness.
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 is designed to protect employees hearing against excessive noise and ensure that they are provided with adequate protection.
Employers must provide hearing protection such as ear defenders and other similar precautions in areas where noise levels are at 85 decibels.
(Source: Health and Safety Executive)
If an employer fails to do this or provides unsuitable or inadequate protection then this means an increased risk of hearing loss for their employees.
The effects of noise related hearing loss are life changing.
Effects of noise related hearing loss
Our hearing is a vital means of communication and interaction in the world around us. But if this is damaged then this impacts upon our ability to function in this way.
If you have developed hearing loss due to workplace noise then the effects can be permanent. Whilst we all expect our hearing to deteriorate to some extent due to growing older, being deprived of this facility at a younger age is a different matter altogether.
This is even worse if it results in complete deafness.
But apart from hearing loss there is another complication following exposure to workplace noises. Constant exposure can result in a condition called ‘tinnitus’in which the sufferer experiences whistling, ringing or humming noises in their ears. This is a distressing condition which affects quality of life and can lead to anxiety and depression.
A loss of hearing may mean you having to change jobs which can put a financial strain upon you and your family. If it has resulted in a drop in income then this affects your standard of living and adds to the stress.
If you have become deaf due to excessive noise then this means coming to terms with your altered condition and all the issues involved with it. These include purchasing a hearing aid and/or learning to use sign language.
None of this is easy to deal with and can cause a great deal of frustration and anger. In some cases it can lead to depression.
Compensation cannot restore your hearing back to normal but it can be used to pay for treatment or aids which will improve your quality of life.
Noise related hearing loss refers to cases where hearing has been damaged due to prolonged exposure to noise.
But there is another type of hearing loss which is no less severe and is also caused by excessive noise. This type of hearing loss or ‘acoustic shock’ occurs when an employee is subject to a sudden, sharp noise such as an explosion or a high pitched whistle.
This type of injury causes damage to the eardrum and can result in permanent deafness.
This can happen to any employee who works in a noise filled environment but particularly affects call centre workers. Their job involves wearing a headset and dealing with telephone calls from often disgruntled members of the public.
Acoustic shock occurs if a member of the public behaves in a malicious way by blowing a whistle down the telephone which causes pain and damages the employee’s hearing.
There is likely to be an increase in this type of injury due to the increasing use of call centres and other forms of telephone based services.
Making a claim for compensation for noise related hearing loss
Find a personal injury lawyer or solicitor with experience of noise related hearing claims. They will have expertise plus an understanding of the many issues involved in what can be a complex type of claim.
The reason for that is that hearing loss occurs as part of the ageing process. So your claim has to clearly show that your hearing loss occurred due to a lack of care rather than a result of growing older.
The lawyer or solicitor will assess your claim to determine the facts of the case and to examine any supporting any evidence. This evidence plays a vital role in the claims process so it is important that you provide anything which you think will help your case.
They will help and advise throughout the process.
If you want to know more about the claims process then visit our making a claim for compensation section.
Time limit for claiming compensation for noise related hearing loss
There is usually a 3 year time limit for personal injury claims which starts from the date of the accident or diagnosis of the illness.
There are a few exceptions to this so check with your lawyer or solicitor.
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