Industrial deafness claims

Are you entitled?

Losing your hearing can often mean missing out on many of the activities and events you once enjoyed.

As a result you are left with a worrying and incredibly scary experience. If your deafness is work related you need to know if your are entitled to compensation.

An Introduction To Hearing Loss

Consider for a moment, never being able to hear, and therefore re-experience these precious memories again. Suddenly, the often traumatic reality of losing one’s hearing is put into proper perspective. Hearing loss makes reliving these sorts of moments more than a little difficult, and it also hinders the process of creating new ones in a similar manner.

Of course, one can lose one’s hearing in a myriad of ways. A car accident, an instrument getting stuck in the ear, and exposure to loud noises (even from listening to your iPod at dangerous levels) are all circumstances which can result in hearing loss. The most common among these however is being exposed to loud noises (usually above a certain decibel and sometimes at a certain frequency or pitch) in either a one off experience or over an extended period of time. This can happen in environments ranging from a musical concert, a part or your workplace.

Symptoms And Signs Of Hearing Loss

Biologically speaking, hearing loss is the result of damage to the sensory hair cells in the inner ear. This kind of damage is usually permanent. That is, it is completely irreversible. Fortunately, in some cases instruments such as hearing aids and other devices can assist and improve the quality of sounds you hear, and improve overall hearing, even after some level of permanent damage has occurred. Symptoms of/signs you may be suffering from hearing loss include:

  1. Difficulty hearing and understanding the conversation of others. This is heightened when you are competing with other noises in the environment, such as background music, a television or machines that are being operated. Also, in many cases, you may be able to recognise sound, and that others are speaking, but still not be able to distinguish what is actually being said. That is, the words being spoken.
  2. Difficulty understanding women and children in particular due to having hearing loss in the higher frequencies. Women and children tend to have higher pitched speaking voices, and as such, loss of hearing in those frequencies will make them particular hard to understand.
  3. Music and favourite TV shows have to be listened to at higher volumes than in the past.
  4. Sounds overall are muffled. They are not very clear and often indistinguishable.

This is not an extensive list by any means. It is however, a good place to start. This list is not for the purposes of self-diagnosis, treatment or self-medication, as we are not medical professionals. Instead, we do recommend that if you feel you display some of these symptoms and may be suffering from hearing loss, then you need to consult your primary care physician. He or she will be able to run some conclusive tests, properly diagnose you, and recommend further treatment options — which may, or may not, include seeing an Ear Nose and Throat Specialist (ENT).

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Definition: What Is Industrial Hearing Loss, And How Does One Become Industrially Deaf?

Industrial hearing loss, occurs when there is a loss of hearing due to being continuously exposed to noises above a certain level at the workplace. The key words here are at the workplace, and on the job, form more information on accidents at work we have added a full guide. In order for your condition to be termed industrial deafness, you must have lost your hearing on account of conditions at your job. Otherwise, it is another kind of hearing loss which is outside the scope of the advice found here.

Generally, this type of deafness affects mainly the higher frequencies in the inner ear. These frequencies being damaged results in victims or sufferers experiencing difficulties hearing and communicating in environments where there is even the slightest background noise. This is very specific. This is also known as sensorineural. Other symptoms experienced include an inability to hear the television clearly as well as great difficulty in conversing on the telephone. These individuals may over time come to avoid situations concerning said activities.

There are four main types of industrial deafness. They include:

  • temporary loss
  • permanent loss
  • tinnitus
  • acoustic trauma

Currently there is an estimated 170,000 Brits who suffer from deafness and other hearing conditions due to sustained noise levels of damaging proportions at work. Occupational deafness (another name for the condition) is more common place than many think, and some of those who suffer from it, have no idea that they do. Instead, they are more likely to chalk it up to factors like ageing.

This video has been put together by a young man who has started to suffer hearing loss and tinnitus as a result of his musical interested. He reveals how he’s coping, the psychological implications of losing hearing at a young age and the test his doctor has organised starting with an audiogram.

How Industrial Deafness Affects Workers In Different Industries

Naturally, some industries are more likely to have a higher proportion of workers who suffer from noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) when compared with others. Some of these industries include:

  • Construction
  • Electrical
  • Mining
  • Plumbing
  • Engineering
  • Railway work
  • Airplane industry work
  • Packaging
  • Printing
  • Manufacturing
  • Metal and maintenance work
  • Industrial painting work

In addition, workers who operate the following kinds of machinery on a daily or regular basis can be susceptible to losing their hearing on the job as well:

  • Pumps
  • Jackhammers
  • Press, welding and locksmith machines
  • Trucks
  • Forklifts
  • Industrial vacuum cleaners, polishers, air conditioner units or exhaust fans
  • Grinders
  • Mills
  • Saws

3. Legal Recourse: Making Hearing Claims

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If you or someone you know has suffered from occupational deafness, rest assured that there is legal recourse that you may benefit from. Hearing claims are on the rise as more persons are becoming aware of both the condition, as well as the possibility of legal action and subsequent compensation. As with all aspects of law and order however, there are certain conditions that must be met. These requirements are clearly outlined in The Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1986, as well as The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 Act.

Claims Guidelines: The Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1986

As is often the case with many acts and legal regulations documents, there are chapters, sections, and sub-sections that govern and outline exactly what is appropriate or acceptable action and what is not. The Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1986 is one such act. Consider the following stipulations found in the act:

  1. Under the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1986, in accordance with the WorkCover Guidelines (Chapter 9) — which governs the evaluation of permanent hearing impairment — binaural hearing loss must be assessed at a minimum of 8.8%. The amount of impairment will have to be determined by an ENT specialist accredited by the WorkCover guidelines and trained in assessing industrial hearing impairment. Once assessed and approved by the specialised ENT as having suffered from hearing impairment, the worker can begin making claims. Some claims may even include the cost of hearing aids used as a result of the impairment. This is of course within reason, and done under the advice of the ENT Specialist. Other medical expenses relating to the impairment may also be claimed, once approved by the ENT.
  2. A worker can make several claims, as long as he or she is still being exposed to damaging levels of noise at the workplace. This is because the deterioration of hearing is continuing so long as the individual continues to work in the given environment. If however the worker is no longer in such an environment, he or she can only make one claim for past damages, as the damages are not on going.

The Control of Noise At Work Regulations 2005 Act

This act is designed to protect the health of the British worker. Established under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Control of Noise at work Regulations 2005 Act replaces the Noise at Work regulations 1989 Act which too had clear guidelines governing how noise should be treated in the workplace. In a nutshell, the act dictates that employers within Great Britain should take care to reduce or completely eliminate the amount of noise their employees are exposed to during work. The act describes what should be acceptable levels of average noise exposure, as opposed to peak sound pressure. These numbers (average noise exposure versus peak sound pressure) are paired against each other in three categories, namely lower exposure limit, upper exposure limit and exposure limit value.

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 Act, although skewed toward putting the pressure on the employer to protect his or her employee, is also a great reference point for the employee. An employee, especially those in the high risk industries (see section 2.1 of this document), can use this act as guideline regarding what is an acceptable and safe environment for them to work in and prevent hearing loss from ever occurring. Naturally, it will also help them keep their employers accountable in providing better environments for them to operate in.

The Last Straw: Processing And Submitting Your Industrial Deafness Claim

Processing and Submitting your claim is the final step toward being able to get compensation for your suffering. Of course having legal representation to submit the claim for you will help increase your chances of being successful. It is important that you and your representation have all the necessary medical and other documentation readied, and in good order. One sure fire way to be unsuccessful in making your claim for a work related deafness, is to not have these documents properly prepared. Not meeting the outlined guidelines (for one reason or the other) is another.

A qualified attorney or legal firm will be able to help you prepare your documents and all other information relevant to making your claim a successful one. He, she or their team of legal counsels will understand the acts outlined in this documentation and how to make them work for you. A competent lawyer or legal team will be able to point you to ENT Specialists approved by the WorkCover Guidelines (see section ‘Claims Guidelines’ above), who will assess your situation and put you in medical right standing to make your claim.

These are the things to look for when scouting for representation.

It may be best for you to use a reputable legal representation to help you in your quest for making hearing claims in an industrial hearing loss case. There are many lawyers and firms specialising in these areas. Finding them is easy too. A simple web search can help find you some of the best in the field who will be willing to take on your case but before that be sure to be equiped with as much information as possible. This no win no fee guide is a comprehensive and excellent place to start.

Once you have settled on a lawyer or firm you deem suitable for your legal representation, go ahead and contact them. From there, they will be able to assist you with the different steps. Firms with a ‘no win, no fee’ policy is a good place to start. It is indicative of a firm willing to put the success of you and your industrial deafness claim first.

Deafness Compensation Calculator

Compensation amounts for occupational hearing loss can vary from one case to the next. There are several factors, such as the extent of your hearing loss, that will determine the monetary range within which your claim falls. Here are some important statistics concerning the same:

Injury due to occupation Approximate compensation amount
Completely deaf £50,000 - £65,000
Total hearing loss in 1 ear £17,000 - £25,000
Severe hearing loss £15,000 - £25,000
Moderate hearing loss £7,000 - £15,000
Mild hearing loss £7,000 - £8,000
Slight, temporary or occasional hearing loss £3,000 - £7,000