Industrial deafness claims

Also known as ‘noise-induced hearing loss’: this type of deafness occurs as a result of exposure to excessive noise in the workplace. If someone is exposed to too much noise over a long period of time then this will lead to a hearing problem which ranges from mild deafness through to complete deafness.

There are a range of jobs which require people to work in environments where there are persistent, loud levels of noise. Whilst this might appear to be only a minor inconvenience it can lead to permanent damage in the long term.

If you work in a noisy environment then your employer has a duty of care to ensure that your hearing is protected at all times. If this is faulty or there is no protection at all, for example a pair of ear defenders then your hearing will be affected.

Jobs which are high risk for industrial deafness

There are numerous jobs where there is a risk of developing noise related hearing loss. Even working in an environment where there is a radio on at full volume will cause problems after a period of time.

Examples of these include:

  • Leisure industry, e.g. clubs, pubs and bars
  • Factories
  • Mining
  • Manufacturing industries
  • Construction/labouring
  • Transportation industries, e.g. airlines
  • Call centres

You may be surprised to see call centres included in this list but many call centre operatives use headsets as part of their job which places them at high risk of acoustic shock.

Four types of industrial deafness

There are four types of industrial deafness which are as follows:

  • Temporary hearing loss
  • Tinnitus
  • Acoustic shock
  • Permanent hearing loss

Temporary hearing loss

This is as the name says: it develops after a short period of exposure to loud noises, usually within the first couple of hours of exposure.

This type of hearing loss also occurs following exposure to loud music at concerts and festivals.

If you experience this type of loss then you will notice that sounds appear to be muffled or it is difficult to follow a conversation. You may have a buzzing or ringing noise in your ears.

Your hearing will return to normal after a short period of time. But if you undergo constant exposure to this level of noise then it may lead to permanent deafness.


Also known as noises in the ears: this unpleasant condition causes ringing, whistling, humming or buzzing noises in the ears which you may find distressing.

It often develops after a period of exposure to loud noise although sometimes it appears without warning. Most cases of tinnitus are temporary in nature but there are others which persist for the rest of your life.

Acoustic shock

This is a sudden loss of hearing which occurs after exposure to an excessively loud noise or a series of short, sharp sounds. These sharp sounds may follow each other in quick succession and can cause severe trauma.

An example of this is the noise of an explosion, an alarm or a high pitched whistle. Any of these can result in a perforated eardrum and permanent hearing loss.

This is a particular problem for call centre operatives who are subject to these noises, often in a malicious way by an angry customer.

Permanent hearing loss

This occurs over a period of time usually around 10 years or so. Hearing gradually diminishes and once this has happened it cannot be reversed.

Constant exposure to noise will result in permanent hearing loss.

The first warning of this is the inability to hear high pitched sounds such as women and children’s voices as these tend to be at the higher end of the scale.

Excess noise damages tiny hair cells within the ear which vibrate in response to sound waves. These sound waves are passed through the ear and into the brain where they are interpreted as noise, music or speech.

If these cells are damaged they do not re-grow which means that the ability to detect frequencies of sound is reduced.

Hearing loss due to the ageing process

We all experience changes in our hearing as we age which is to be expected. Hair cells accumulate damage over time which results in an inability to hear certain types of sounds. An example of this having to turn up the volume on a radio or television to hear what is being said.

It is important to keep that in mind when thinking about making a claim for compensation. Some degree of hearing loss is normal but an excessive amount isn’t which may be attributed to a noisy workplace.

Anyone can experience hearing loss if exposed to constant noise on a day to day level. But the extent of this and the level of hearing that remains will vary between individuals. Some people, and you may be one of them, are more vulnerable to hearing loss than others.

If you think that your hearing loss has occurred due to a noisy environment then you may be able to claim compensation. You need to be able to prove that your employer is at fault by failing to protect you against excessive noise.

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 act states that noise must be controlled to a certain level before providing ear protection for the employees. An employer must reduce the level of noise and provide ear protection such as ear defenders.


Making a claim for compensation for industrial deafness

Find a personal injury solicitor, lawyer or claims management company who has a wealth of knowledge and experience in these types of claims.

These types of claims can be complex and require the services of someone who understands this and can advise you accordingly. They will explain the process to you and what the chances of success are.

Your hearing is a precious thing and any damage or loss of this will impact upon your life. It may force you to change jobs or even give up work which has consequences for your income level. You may have to pay for specialist care, treatment or aids.

If you are successful with your claim then the payout will go some way to easing this. It cannot restore your hearing but it may make things a little easier.

Find out more about the claims process in our making a claim for compensation section.

Time limit for claiming compensation for industrial deafness

Personal injury claims have fixed deadlines in regard to making a claim. There is a time limit –which usually starts from the date of accident or confirmation of an illness – and lasts for 3 years.

Most claims stipulate that an application has to be made within 3 years of the accident or illness.

However, the deadline may differ with industrial deafness claims.

Speak to your personal injury lawyer or solicitor about this. They will be able to advise you about this and any other related issues.

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