Acoustic shock compensation claims

Updated: October 8, 2018


Acoustic shock is a recognised industrial injury. Related to telephone use, it is caused by exposure to a short, unexpected, high frequency, high intensity sound.

Call centre staff are most susceptible because of their high and prolonged use of headsets. According to UNISON, there are currently over 1 million individuals working in this industry in the UK - a significant amount of people potentially at risk.

If a person has suffered acoustic shock in such an environment, the may be entitled to claim compensation if the correct steps were not taken to prevent it.

Otorhinolaryngologist and patient
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Do I have an acoustic shock claim?

If you have been injured in the last three years (longer if children were involved) and someone else was to blame, then we can help you make a compensation claim.

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The symptoms of acoustic shock?

Acoustic shock occurs when a trigger noise, such as feedback oscillation, fax or signalling or even a shout down the line, causes a strong muscle contraction in the middle ear which leads to a tearing of the inner membrane.

Those who have been affected by acoustic shock will understand the impact it has. Not only can it lead to permanent tinnitus and/or hearing loss symptoms (not measurable with audiometric testing), but it has also been recognised as bringing on a range of other unwelcome symptoms, including:

  • Ear pain
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Jaw and neck pain
  • A hollow feeling or fluttering noises in the ear
  • Poor balance
  • Anxiety
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Fatigue

Such symptoms can be hugely detrimental to a person's quality of life - for example leading to poor performance at work and long term depression. The compensation sum should reflect the severity of these effects.

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Tackling acoustic shock

Acoustic shock is a relatively new industrial accident phenomenon, and, as such, its prevention has been something employers have had to integrate into their current working systems.

Since 1991, major manufacturers of headsets have incorporated acoustic limiter into the electronics of many headsets. These ensure that any type of noise is above the legal limit (118 decibels) is not transmitted.

In 2004, the Acoustic Safety Programme (ASP) was set up to help businesses and call centre operators protect their staff from the causes and symptoms of noise interference and acoustic shock delivered via telephone and headset systems.

However, despite these initiatives, many cases of acoustic shock as still reported each year.

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Who is liable in acoustic shock compensation claims?

If the condition occurs in a call centre, acoustic shock liability would lie with the call centre operator. Acoustic shock is not referred to specifically in current legislation. However, employers are legally bound to provide staff with a safe working environment. This includes protecting them, as is reasonably practical, from acoustic shock and training them on risks.

These requirements fall under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Noise at Work Regulations 2005, and interpreted through a range of Health Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines.

The Noise at Work Regulations 2005 stipulate that 118 decibels is the maximum noise that employees should be exposed to - the same limit used by headphone manufacturers. However, acoustic shock can occur below this level.

Because of this, employers should also take additional steps including encouraging staff to report incidents and keeping a record of these events to escalate to RIDDOR.

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What are the chances of making a successful claim?

These are many successful incidences of this type of claim amongst call centre workers. As the legislation doesn't provide for the prevention of sounds below 118 decibels, cases often revolve around proving the employers lack of attention to the problem. A solicitor can help in gathering evidence to support this.

If an employee had reported an incident and subsequent symptoms to an employer and they failed to act, resulting in more long term damage such as anxiety and depression, it would be difficult to build a defence.

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How does no win, no fee work?

Typically a no win no fee agreement (technically called a CFA or Conditional Fee Agreement) is put in place between a claimant and a suitably qualified lawyer.

A Conditional Fee Agreement is the terms and conditions under which the solicitor represents their client.

The CFA lays out what the solicitors will do and how they is paid if the legal case is won.

If you use Quittance for your acoustic shock injury compensation claim there will be no additional charges , no up-front fees and the peace of mind that you will not be financially out of pocket.

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How much compensation can I claim for acoustic shock?

The amount of compensation you will receive depends on a number of factors. Our personal injury compensation calculator provides an accurate estimate of your likely compensation.

Use our Online Compensation Calculator
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Accidents at work - Claims against your employer

Every year, 600,000* employees are injured in accidents at work. If you have suffered an injury or illness at work, you may able to claim compensation.

Find out if you can claim acoustic shock compensation from your employer: Read more about work accident claims

*Source: 2016/17 Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report

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Quittance's national network of solicitors handle all types of personal injury claims and have a wealth of experience in fast track, complex and serious injury claims. Our lawyers are chosen for their success rate in winning claims and their professionalism.

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Emma Bell Employers and Public Liability Panel Solicitor
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