What is Noise Induced Hearing Loss?

Posted on: 3 mins read
Anthony Waddington

Partner, Industrial Disease Claims

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Noise Induced hearing loss is a term used to describe hearing loss which has been caused by exposure to loud noise.

The condition can occur as a result of prolonged exposure to loud noise over many years. For instance, you may have worked in a factory with heavy machinery, or outside with noisy tools. However, noise Induced hearing loss can also be caused by a one-off incident of exposure to loud noise, such as an explosion or gunfire.

Being exposed to excessive noise in these ways can damage the sensitive internal structures of the ears, which in turn results in hearing loss. Noise induced hearing loss usually affects both ears (bilateral). However, in certain circumstances where a person’s exposure to loud noise is predominantly on one side, the damage can be more severe in one ear than the other, and this is referred to as unilateral hearing loss.

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Compensation for Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Employers have been under a duty for many years to take measures to protect their employees from exposure to excessive noise in the workplace. So if they’ve failed to do so, you may be entitled to make an industrial disease claim for compensation.

For free legal advice get in touch with our Industrial Disease Solicitors. We may be able to deal with your claim on a No Win, No Fee basis – ask us for details.

Noise at Work Regulations

It’s been our experience as Industrial Disease Solicitors that many employers were slow to act to protect their employees from noise damage, despite being aware of the dangers of excessive noise, and we’ve been successful in making industrial disease claims against some of the UK’s largest employers, such as BT, British Rail, British Steel and British Coal for our clients.

As far back as the early 1960s, the dangers of prolonged exposure to excessive noise at work and the risk of noise induced hearing loss have been known. From at least 1963, most employers are deemed to have been aware that exposing their workforce to excessive noise may have consequences for their hearing.

As a result, employers been under a duty to protect their employees from noise exposure either by reducing noise levels in the workplace or by providing hearing protection. The UK government then introduced the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 1989 into law to protect workers and impose stricter duties on employers. This included offering hearing protection or making the use of hearing protection mandatory when the noise reached certain levels.

A few years later, the UK government introduced The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (the Noise Regulations), which lowered the levels of noise at which hearing protection should be made available and enforced.

Employers who have historically exposed their employees to excessive noise and caused their workers to subsequently develop noise induced hearing loss can’t seek to defend hearing loss claims on the basis that after 1963, they didn’t know exposure to excessive noise was dangerous and they didn’t have a duty to protect their employees. And that’s the case whether they were a huge national company or a small business with only a few employees.

At Simpson Millar, we’ve successfully claimed compensation for thousands of individuals who have developed noise induced hearing loss due to their historical exposure to noise in the workplace. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with hearing loss or have recently noticed hearing loss which you believe may have been caused by exposure to loud noises in the workplace, please get in touch with our Industrial Disease Solicitors to see if we can help you.

Symptoms of Noise Induced Hearing Loss

These can include:

  • Generally poor hearing
  • Having to turn the TV up louder than others find comfortable
  • Struggling to hear when in places where there is background noise such as pubs or restaurants
  • Struggling to hear higher frequency sounds such as children or female voices
  • Tinnitus i.e. buzzing or ringing in the ears.

Although the damage caused to the ears occurs at the time of exposure to loud noise, it’s quite often the case that a person won’t notice their hearing loss until many years later, and often years after they’ve left the noisy environment which caused the damage.

The reason for this delayed onset of hearing loss symptoms is because as a person naturally ages, their hearing will deteriorate, just like with eyesight. It’s the combination of this age-related hearing loss and the noise induced hearing loss which usually causes a person to notice difficulties hearing.

Often, a person will only be affected by their hearing loss in later life because of the combined effect of hearing damage caused by noise and deterioration caused by age. But this means a person may experience hearing loss many years earlier than they might have done otherwise were it not for the noise damage.

Unfortunately, there’s no known cure for noise induced hearing loss, but hearing aids can be utilised to help people manage the condition. We often include the costs of obtaining private hearing aids within the compensation claims as an additional item of special compensation.

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