Hearing Loss and Deafness Cases

24 February 2016

On 11 November 1995 there was an article in the Scotsman newspaper which estimated that around 170,000 Scottish workers were potentially exposed to harmful levels of noise.

It is highly unlikely that any of those workers would notice any symptoms at that time. That is because although continuous exposure to excessive noise damages the cilia, or microscopic hairs of the inner ear, and that damage is permanent, the effects won’t be noticed for another 20 years or so.

Most people won’t experience any symptoms of deafness until the ageing process causes an additional overlay of hearing loss. So although the noise induced element is permanent and static, the condition is progressive and will deteriorate all the time.

People react differently, but it is generally agreed that there is no social disability until the hearing loss reaches 25 dB level including the speech frequencies. What happens then is that the person loses the ability to distinguish consonants. A frequent presentation that one-on-one communication is reasonably okay, but that the person is lost in any social situation. So it can be a very isolating condition.

Typically it is the other family members who are the first to notice. They have been driven to distraction by excessive TV volumes. The noise exposed person is initially in denial, but is finally prevailed upon to visit the doctor where a hearing loss may be diagnosed.

Since at least 1989 there have been strict regulations which should have prevented anyone suffering a hearing loss because of noise exposure. These are the Noise at Work Regulations 1989 and also the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. You can get damages and compensation for hearing loss. Awards tend to be modest in the £5000-£8,000 range. You must also be aware that the most frequent defence raised by the insurance industry is that you have claimed too late. So if you feel that you have suffered a work-related hearing loss you must take steps immediately or you claim may be treated as time-barred.

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