When you think of industrial injuries and diseases, most people's minds will be drawn to illnesses caused by asbestos or chemical exposure and injuries caused by heavy machinery or by tripping over on the factory floor. While these things do happen quite often in the workplace, there are other forms of industrial injury or illness which develop over a longer period of time and are much more difficult to spot. Perhaps one of the worst and most debilitating examples of an industrial injury is industrial deafness caused by working in a noisy environment without sufficient protection. As anyone who suffers from significant hearing loss will tell you, it’s one of the most isolating and depressing illnesses there is, and if you think your hearing has been damaged by the conditions in which you work or used to work, then you’ve got every right to think about putting together a claim for compensation against the employer in question.Thanks to Cute Injury I was able to claim compensation after suffering from tinnitus caused by working in a factory.We were not provided with the correct ear protection at work, and Cute Injury were able to help me make a claim for my damaged hearing.
DID YOU KNOW: Figures from 2014 to 2015 show that around 15,000 people suffered hearing damage, or had existing damage made worse, due to work-related noise. Source: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/at-a-glance.pdf
Over one million employees are currently at risk of developing forms of noise -induced hearing loss in the workplace. Industrial deafness is grouped into four main types:
This can occur when an individual is subjected to constant loud noise. It will not usually worsen, but the best thing to do is to remove yourself from the environment to prevent this from happening.
Being exposed to high levels of noise without sufficient protection over a long period of time, can lead to permanent loss of hearing. When the hair cells within the ear deteriorate from being subjected to noise and do not replenish, permanent hearing loss will ensue If permanent hearing loss occurs and there has been no improvement over a period of time, it is unlikely that hearing will return.
Also known as ‘acoustic shock’. An individual may experience this as a result of an extremely loud noise, for example, a gunshot or an explosion If the ears are unprotected, the acoustic trauma/shock can cause irreparable damage like a perforated eardrum.
This type of industrial hearing loss is caused by long-standing exposure to loud noise. Symptoms usually include a buzzing, ringing or ticking sound in the ear. Tinnitus can be temporary or a permanent condition.
Occupations that are at higher risk of developing industrial deafness: Construction jobs Jobs in the music industry Engineers Factory workersTools that can cause industrial deafness: Bench grinders Break pad grinders Concrete vibrators Hammer mills Hydraulic power packs Pneumatic transfer systems Sand burners
If you find yourself struggling to hear other people speak at a normal volume, or are turning the volume up on the TV or radio a bit more than you used to and you work in a noisy environment (usually an environment that is consistently above 80 decibals), then you may be suffering from industrial deafness. The term 'industrial deafness' can relate to four main types of hearing loss caused by the work environment: temporary loss of hearing, permanent loss of hearing, acoustic trauma and tinnitus. Deafness can occur gradually as part of the natural ageing process, but workers in certain jobs or industries tend to be more susceptible to developing industrial deafness - particularly those that work around noise tools and/or machines. Deafness can occur naturally as part of the aging process, for instance, but workers in particular industries or in jobs where noisy tools need to be used regularly will be more susceptible to developing a case of industrial deafness. Some of the more common symptoms of industrial deafness include: Lack of, or reduction in, hearing in one or both ears Regularly missing parts of conversations with others Struggling to hear speech, especially when there is background noise Needing to turn up the volume on the TV or radio to high levels in order to hear properly Constant ringing, buzzing, hissing, droning, roaring and ticking noises are all signs of tinnitus
If you think you may be suffering from any form of industrial deafness then we recommend you consult your GP as soon as possible. If they believe there may be a problem with your hearing then it is likely you will be referred to a specialist for tests and then treatment which can include sound therapy or a hearing aid. All forms of hearing loss are notoriously difficult to treat, and it is currently believed that hearing damage as a result of either a sudden or prolonged exposure to extreme noise levels is irreversible. It is therefore extremely important to identify hearing loss symptoms quickly before the condition can deteriorate further. If it is determined that the workplace environment is the cause of the hearing loss then measures can be taken in order to reduce any further noise exposure and prevent any other employees suffering the same problem. Similarly there is currently no known cure for tinnitus, but there are certain methods that can be applied to help sufferers cope. These include the use of de-tinnitising amplifiers which work by creating external sounds at a specific frequency to try and trick the ear into processing the more relaxing sound produced by the amp rather than the high-pitched and distracting ringing that is associated with tinnitus. Sound therapy sessions can also help tinnitus sufferers to retrain how their ears process sounds over time.
Employers have certain responsibilities when it comes to noisy work environments, most of which are covered by the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (known simply as the Noise Regulations 2005). The Noise Regulations 2005 require that employers take steps to reduce or prevent any risks to their employee's health and safety caused by the exposure to high levels of noise at work. If you are worried that your employer is not following these procedures and you could be at risk of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) then you could take the following action to protect yourself... Make sure you correctly wear any hearing protection (including ear defenders, ear plugs and other inserts) provided by your employer when the levels of noise increase in your workplace. Your employer should provide adequate training regarding using hearing protection equipment correctly. If you feel that you haven't received such training then speak either to your employer or your health and safety representative about receiving training as soon as possible. Make sure all hearing protection equipment has been properly maintained and works correctly. Regarding the machinery that is generating the high levels of noise, is there a way that could be positioned differently to minimise the noise ouput and lessen the risk for employees? There could also be an opportunity to alter the layout of the workplace to position noisy machinery and tasks away from quieter parts. Make sure that noise risk assessments are carried out regularly throughout the workplace. If you are at risk of being exposed to high levels of noise in the workplace then your employer should provide you with information regarding: The expected noise level you are likely to be exposed to, and the risk to your hearing this level of noise can bring. What they are doing to help control and manage the risks of industrial deafness in their workplace. Where the protective hearing equipment can be located, and how to use, store and maintain it. How you as an employee can report problems either with the levels of noise, or the protective equipment.
When calculating how much of a compensation payout you could be entitled to for industrial deafness, there are several factors that need to be taken into account. These factors are mostly associated with the severity of the condition, and payouts can be based on the following levels of condition: Complete hearing loss in both ears (depending on speech defecit or possible tinnitus) Complete hearing loss in one ear (depending on tinnitus as an associated condition) Serious hearing loss with severe tinnitus Moderate tinnitus and/or hearing loss Slight or occassional hearing loss and/or tinnitus
If you feel that your employer failed to take reasonable steps - despite the fact that they should have been expected to foresee the damage that this could do, and that this failure resulted in your hearing being permanently damaged - then you could be entitled to make a claim for compensation. In order to be successful in your claim, we will need two things - firstly a medical report to confirm your hearing has been damaged, and secondly showing that this hearing loss is the direct result of your employers negligence. Noise-induced hearing loss can have a hugely negative and detrimental effect on your quality of life - impacting your ability to work as well as your social life, both of which can cause feelings of isolation and depression. If you suffer such symptoms because of the negligence of someone else then you are entitled to seek compensation. Get in touch with Cute Injury now to learn more about how we can help:
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