Has My Deafness been Caused by My Work?
Hearing loss/deafness can be caused by exposure to high levels of noise at work. People who have worked in certain industries or environments may have been exposed to loud noises day after day and suffered irreversible hearing damage as a result. This is known as Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL).
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
The damage to your hearing is more than likely to have been caused by exposure over a prolonged period of time but can, depending on the noise level, be the result of a very short period of exposure or even an isolated incident.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), about 23,000 UK workers were suffering with occupational hearing loss between 2015-16 and 2017-18, even though employers have a duty to safeguard the hearing of their workforce.
The easiest - and often cheapest - way to protect members of staff is to provide hearing protection, such as ear plugs or ear defenders. Employers are also required to look at other options for reducing noise levels, such as adapting or modifying equipment or work practices where possible.
When do Noise Induced Hearing Loss Symptoms Start to Show?
Generally, the damage to your hearing ceases when the exposure to the noise ends. However, most people don’t notice the deterioration in their hearing for some time, as it is a gradual process.
It is only when the effects of age related hearing loss begin to manifest that the individual notices that there’s a problem. Even then, this is often only because of other people’s observations, such as family members complaining that the TV is too loud, or that they have to keep repeating themselves.
Exposure to high levels of noise at work can also cause tinnitus – a persistent buzzing or ringing in the ears. After first noticing symptoms, most people believe the sound is from an external source.
There can be alternative causes of tinnitus, but it’s likely that if you’re suffering with noise induced hearing loss and have tinnitus in both ears, this is also a result of working in a noisy work environment.
Unfortunately, both hearing loss and tinnitus are irreversible. However, medical advances mean it’s possible to limit the impact the symptoms have on a person’s life. For example, hearing aids can be used as both a tool to enhance sounds and mask tinnitus.
What Can You Do?
Arrange to have a hearing test which is available on the NHS. The hearing test, or Audiogram, involves sitting in a soundproof booth with a set of headphones and a type of buzzer. The audiologist will then play different noises at different frequencies through the headphones and ask you to press the buzzer when you hear the noise. The results should be able to confirm if you have Noise Induced Hearing Loss.
If you believe you developed deafness or tinnitus as a result of your work, you may be entitled to compensation.
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