Around 200,000 people in the UK suffer from hearing problems rising from noisy industrial environments. A further 1.1 million people are at risk of developing hearing problems in the future. There are many possible causes for this hearing loss and one cause which is avoidable is exposure to excessive levels of noise.
Recent studies suggest that just one hour listening to an MP3 player can damage hearing.
Frequent exposure to loud noise is already known to affect hearing, so it seems sensible to not listen to personal music players at loud volumes for extended periods of time.
Noise at Work
Many jobs and workplaces require employees to work in environments where noise levels and patterns are potentially hazardous to their hearing. Employers have a responsibility to provide their employees with adequate protection against this noise. If this protection is missing or flawed, the result can be serious long-lasting damage to hearing.
If you have been exposed to excessive levels of noise in your employment which may have damaged your hearing, you may be entitled to make a hearing loss claim.
There is a very simple test to help calculate whether you have been exposed to excessive noise levels. As a guide, noise levels are around 85 decibels if you have to raise your voice to communicate with someone standing 4 feet away. If you have to use a very loud voice then it is likely noise levels exceed 90 decibels.
Due to the ageing process every person's hearing deteriorates to a level that they may require the television turned up louder or miss parts of conversations when in a group of people. However, if you were exposed to excessive levels of noise in your employment this may have contributed to your hearing loss.
The severity of noise induced hearing loss can vary depending on the length and level of exposure suffered by the individual. Any occupation with exposure to loud noises on a continuous day-to-day basis can result in hearing loss due to nerve damage. Some people are more susceptible than others to hearing loss.
Another effect of exposure to loud noise is Tinnitus which can sound like ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming in the ears or head. For those who are suffering from tinnitus as a result of exposure to loud noises at work, Irwin Mitchell may be able to help you make a claim for compensation.
At the time of the exposure to noise it is often the case that the damage is not obvious, indeed many people do not become aware of hearing problems, including tinnitus, until the hearing begins to deteriorate as a result of age. It is at this time, often many years after the exposure to noise, that investigations, such as an audiogram, are usually carried out. This means that in many cases a successful claim for damages can be pursued even if the exposure occurred decades earlier.
It is the date on which you became aware you suffered from hearing loss which is important, rather than the date you were exposed to excessive noise. The 'date of knowledge' is very important, this is the date when a person was diagnosed or realised or ought to have known that they were suffering from a work related condition.
For most personal injury cases, there is a time limit within which any claim for compensation must be brought. This is known as the limitation period. For Noise Induced Hearing Loss and Tinnitus claims this period is three years from the 'date of knowledge'. If this period expires and no proceedings have begun, the case will become what is known as 'statute barred'.
In every case, it is always best to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity, when events are still fresh in your mind and information is easily available. Preparing a case will also take time, to gather evidence and obtain medical evidence, so it is important not to leave it too late.
It is important to note that even where exposure occurred many years ago and the company in question has ceased to trade, it is still possible to successfully bring a civil claim. This is because it is possible to trace the relevant employment liability insurer who insured the company at the time that the exposure to excessive noise levels occurred and thereafter pursue a claim for damages against the insurance company.
Article by Louise Scott
If you or a loved one has suffered from hearing damage such as acoustic shock, tinnitus, and noise-induced hearing loss caused by conditions at work our solicitors could help you claim compensation. See our Industrial Disease Claims page for more information.