Noise-induced hearing loss claims - Introduction
Exposure to noise at work remains one of the biggest causes of adult-onset deafness. Figures released by the Health and Safety Executive show that an estimated 18,000 people have noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) that was caused, or made worse, by their work environment. Between 120 and 150 new claims for NIHL are made each year, accounting for around 75% of all industrial disease compensation claims against an employer.
Anyone who has suffered noise induced hearing loss as a result of their work may be able to make a claim for compensation.
What is noise induced hearing loss?
Noise induced hearing loss is an umbrella term that includes a number of different hearing conditions, including:
- Acoustic shock syndrome - damage to the ear caused either by a single intense "impulse" sound at close proximity, such as an explosion, or through repeated exposure to high-frequency, high-intensity sounds through a headset.
- Tinnitus - a ringing, buzzing or whistling sound in one or both ears.
- Occupational deafness - permanent cell damage to the inner ear that causes partial or complete deafness.
Damage typically occurs gradually. Over time, sounds may become muffled or distorted, and it may become difficult to understand other people when they speak. The damage from noise induced hearing loss, combined with ageing, can lead to hearing impairment so severe that hearing aids are necessary to magnify sounds so that the sufferer may communicate and engage in daily activities.
When calculating damages for noise induced hearing loss, the Courts will take into account the type and severity of NIHL and the effect it has on the Claimant's life. The more serious and long-lasting the hearing impairment, the greater the amount of compensation that will be awarded.
Who is at risk of noise induced hearing loss?
Noise induced hearing loss occurs most commonly in workers who operate in work environments where the noise levels are over 80dBA. Exposure to such high levels of noise over a long period can cause a permanent hearing impairment. The effects are usually irreversible.
Quittance's solicitors have helped workers who have suffered NIHL in a variety of industries, including:
- Car manufacturing
- Road drilling.
This list is not exhaustive. Any worker in any industry who has suffered a hearing impairment as a result of their working conditions may be eligible to claim compensation against their employer or former employer.
Do I have a noise-induced hearing loss claim?
Get a better idea of where you standUse our Online Claim Eligibility Calculator
A claim must be brought within three years of:
- The date of the noise exposure that caused the hearing loss, or
- The date of discovering a hearing impairment linked to noise exposure. This is known as the date of knowledge.
The date of knowledge can refer to anything that might reasonably have been expected to lead the Claimant to conclude that they had a hearing impairment caused by their working conditions. It is frequently the date a Claimant is informed of their diagnosis.
It is not necessary to have received a diagnosis of NIHL to make a claim, however. As an initial step, the injury lawyer will instruct an audiologist to conduct various hearing tests. An audiogram will be able to show whether the hearing loss has been caused by noise or whether the hearing impairment is down to age or other factors. The medical report will be used as a basis for the compensation claim.
See our online compensation calculator for more information on how much you could claim.
Is the employer liable for noise related hearing loss?
Employers have a duty of care to protect staff from noise induced hearing loss in the workplace. General provisions for this are made in a number of health and safety laws and regulations, including the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. However, the primary piece of legislation is the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.
The aim of the regulations is to ensure that workers' hearing is protected from excessive noise at work. To comply, employers must carry out a thorough risk assessment of the noise levels in the work environment. When noise reaches the legal limit of 80 to 85 decibels, the employer must take action to reduce the noise. Measures include:
- Using quieter machinery
- Installing sound barriers and absorbent materials
- Shortening working periods
- Providing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as earplugs to workers at risk of noise exposure.
An employer who fails to identify the risks or implement appropriate safety measures would be deemed negligent and therefore liable.
What if the employer has gone out of business?
It is possible to bring a claim even if the employer has ceased trading. The injury lawyer will trace the former employer's insurers through Employers' Liability Tracing Office. A settlement will then be negotiated with the insurance company.
In the rare event that Court action is required against an employer that has dissolved, it may be necessary to restore the employer to the Register of Companies held at Companies House, the government agency that oversees businesses. This process will be conducted by the injury lawyer as part of the legal action.
How much can you claim for noise induced hearing loss?
Compensation may be claimed for the physical injury that has been sustained (general damages) as well as financial losses (special damages).
The starting point for assessing general damages is by reference to the Judicial College Guidelines. The guidelines set out financial brackets for tinnitus and other hearing impairments by reference their severity, for example, whether the hearing loss is partial or complete.
Under the guidelines:
- Mild tinnitus or hearing loss may result in a compensation payout of £3,000 to £7,000.
- Moderate tinnitus or hearing loss may receive a compensation payout of £7,000 to £19,000.
- Total deafness in both ears with tinnitus may result in a compensation award of up to £70,000.
Special damages include the Claimant's out-of-pocket expenses, such as:
- Loss of earnings
- Travel costs
- Hearing aids, batteries and replacements
- Tinnitus treatment such as detinnitising amplifiers and counselling
- Adapted telephones, door bells and alarm clocks
- Sign language training.
These expenses are much easier to calculate as they reflect actual expenditure and estimable future costs. It is important to keep receipts as proof of expenses.
Guaranteed No Win, No Fee - No Catch
A no win no fee agreement ( referred to as a Conditional Fee Agreement or CFA) is entered into between the claimant and a qualified lawyer.
The Conditional Fee Agreement is basically the terms and conditions under which the solicitor represents the client.
It sets out what the lawyers will do and how he or she is rewarded if the compensation claim is ultimately successful.
If you use a Quittance solicitor for your NIHL compensation claim there are no sneaky hidden costs , no up-front fees and the complete peace of mind that you will never be financially out of pocket.
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