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Noise at work

Industrial Deafness & Tinnitus

If you have worked in loud noise and can’t hear as well as you used to be able to then you may well be suffering from industrial deafness (now often referred to as occupational deafness or noise induced hearing loss). The Health and Safety Executive estimate that some 170,000 people in the United Kingdom suffer deafness, ringing in the ears or other conditions caused by excessive noise at work.

Because employers have had a responsibility to look after their employees hearing since 1963 you can claim compensation of your employer didn’t do enough to protect you and you are now suffering with a noise induced hearing loss.

How is it measured?

Hearing loss that has been damaged by noise is readily identifiable by a simple hearing test.  The shape of the graph produced in that hearing test would indicate to the person carrying out the test whether the hearing loss is due to noise or not. Lower and upper noise level guidelines have been recently implemented by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE);

  • The lower exposure actions level is an 80 decibel – daily or weekly exposure level. The HSE decree that at this level the employer must be responsible for providing employees with training and information on noise levels as well as making hearing protection devices available to staff.
  • The HSE have also recommended levels for the upper end of the noise scale. The higher exposure level guidelines are that “no employee should be subjected to average noise levels in excess of 87 decibels in the workplace”.

What should my employer have done?

An employer should assess the level of noise to which his employees are being exposed and put in place measures to reduce the level of noise and if it is not possible to reduce it to a safe level, then to provide hearing protection and other measures to avoid excessive exposure to noise.

What are the symptoms?

Noise affects particular frequencies of hearing such that once you suffer from a noise induced hearing loss you will find it more difficult to concentrate on conversations where there is a lot of background noise. For example in a pub or shopping centre, you will find it necessary to lip read, you will probably find that your family are complaining that you have the television on louder and people will generally be repeating themselves to you that because of the gradual nature of the development of the hearing loss, it is very often the case that people simply accept that their hearing loss is due to age and not as a consequence of noise. Common symptoms are:-

  • A noticed lack of hearing in both ears or one ear
  • Not being able to hear the telephone, or hold a conversation over the phone
  • Struggling to hear when there is background noise
  • Missing parts of a conversation
  • Having to turn the Radio or TV up loudly in order to hear
  • Failing to hear a knock at your door

Tinnitus

Other symptoms may include constant ringing, buzzing or whistling. This may be a condition called Tinnitus and can be due to exposure to excessive noise. However, do note that it can also be brought on by other causes. Exposure to excessive levels of noise can develop these symptoms. Meanwhile, others who were exposed to the same noise may have 100% hearing. Everyone is different.

Occupations With Higher Risks

As a general guideline, if you have worked in an environment where there have been loud bangs, for example in steel mills, coal mines or factory environments or you have been exposed to constant levels of noise where it has been necessary to shout or raise your voice to your colleagues even when they have been stood just a few feet away, then it is possible that the noise will have damaged your hearing.

In the modern environment, call centres where head-sets are used regularly may also cause damage to hearing if they are not properly adjusted and maintained and many factory environments where machinery is used in short bursts can also damage the hearing. Another commonly found term for the specific type of hearing loss condition is Acoustic Shock Syndrome

An employer should assess the level of noise to which his employees are being exposed and put in place measures to reduce the level of noise and if it is not possible to reduce it to a safe level, then to provide hearing protection and other measures to avoid excessive exposure to noise.

If you believe that you have been exposed to excessive noise during the course of your working life and that you may be suffering from a hearing loss that has been caused by that noise, then contact us so that we can offer advice on recovering compensation on your behalf, which can cover the cost of hearing aids if they are necessary. There is a certain amount of time you must claim within, so please act quickly.

 

 

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