Industrial deafness covers a range of hearing difficulties caused by working in a loud workplace without adequate ear protection. In this article, InjuryLawyers4U, one of the UK’s leading specialist personal injury solicitors, give the lowdown on industrial deafness including what your employer should do to protect your hearing, and what you should do if you think you have a compensation claim for industrial deafness.
The different types of deafness
Being deaf or having hearing problems doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t hear at all. There are different types of deafness, of varying severity:
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and temporary deafness (sounds become dull and indistinct).
- Permanent hearing loss. This is the gradual onset of deafness, which may be caused by ongoing exposure to loud noise or simply as a result of getting older. Mild to moderate hearing loss can be treated, so it’s important to seek medical help as soon as you notice your hearing is deteriorating.
- Sudden hearing loss (acoustic trauma). This is caused by isolated incidents of very loud noise at close quarters, such an explosion or quarry blast. The effects aren’t normally permanent.
These are often the short term effects of being in a very loud environment, such as a rock concert. Once you’ve moved away from the noise, your normal hearing should return. However, if you’re exposed to loud noise on a regular basis, such as at work, the symptoms may get worse with time.
Protecting your hearing at work
Lots of people work in noisy environments, which can range from factories and warehouses to building sites, mines and quarries. Employers are legally obliged to take reasonable steps to protect the hearing of any employees who are frequently exposed to loud noise at work. This might be a simple case of providing earplugs or ear protectors, installing soundproofing or more sophisticated solutions like reduced-noise engineering.
The current regulations were introduced in April 2006, when the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 came into force. The Regulations lowered the decibel limits at which employers must take action to the following:
- 85 decibels or more (daily or weekly exposure) – employers must provide hearing protection.
- 80 decibels – employers must assess the risks to a worker’s health and provide information and training.
- 87 decibels – the maximum noise level to which a worker can exposed, taking account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection.
Why you should claim for industrial deafness
If your employer didn’t meet their obligations under the 2005 Regulations (or previous legislation) and you’ve suffered industrial deafness as a result, then your employer is legally responsible for this and you’re entitled to seek compensation. There are other reasons why you should claim, too.
Your hearing loss might be treatable with solutions and hearing aids that aren’t available on the NHS, so your compensation money could help pay for these. And if you’ve had to give up work because of your deafness, your compensation will help cover the loss of earnings, giving you peace of mind so you can focus on your recovery.