Working in a noisy environment or operating loud machinery on a constant basis throughout the day, puts you more at risk of suffering from noise induced hearing loss or NIHL. The term is used to describe a multitude of different hearing issues which you may develop over time as a result of being exposed to loud noise in the workplace or if an extremely loud noise occurs close by.
Noise induced hearing loss is known to be among one of the biggest reasons for adult- onset deafness. If you suffer from the condition and would like to know if you can claim compensation for hearing loss from an employer, please read on.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss Explained
As previously touched upon the term “noise induced hearing loss” covers many different sorts of hearing ailments which includes the following:
- Tinnitus – this is a hearing issue that causes ringing, whistling or buzzing in one of your ears but it can also affect both ears
- Acoustic shock syndrome – this is a hearing issue that is caused through damage to your ear whether it is as a result of a single, extremely intense sound close to your ear, an example being an explosion, or through exposure to repetitive, sounds of high intensity when wearing a headset
- Occupational deafness – a hearing issues that is the result of damage to your inner ear and which can cause either partial deafness or total deafness
It is worth noting that the damage caused to your hearing normally happens gradually over time with sounds becoming distorted or muffled making it that much harder for you understand what other people may be saying. When suffering from noise induced hearing loss which, in combination with ageing, it can lead to severe hearing loss and as a result you would have to wear a hearing aid in order to carry out normal communication with others.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss is One of the Most Reported Reasons for Adult-onset Deafness
Statistics published by The Health and Safety Executive have established that around 18,000 people suffer from noise induced hearing loss every year and their hearing was further negatively impacted by a noisy working environment. As such, there has been a large rise in the number of employees who file noise induced hearing loss claims which accounts for about 75% of industrial disease claims lodged against employers.
Should you have developed NIHL due to working in a noisy, loud environment or because you were subjected to a sudden high-intensity sound, you could be entitled to seek compensation from your employer, providing you claim meets specific criteria.
Workers Most at Risk of Developing Noise Induced Hearing Loss
The workers most at risk of suffering from hearing loss are those who work in areas where noise levels are higher than 80dBA. Constant exposure to this noise level over a longer time could result in permanent hearing damage with the effects typically being irreversible. The industries with the most reported instances of noise induced hearing loss includes the following:
- Car manufacturing
- Road drilling
These are just some of the industries in which workers are effected by hearing loss of one nature or another, but there are plenty more. Should you have suffered hearing loss because of the environment conditions you work in, you could be entitled to seek compensation from an employer.
Would My Noise Induced Hearing Loss Claim be Valid?
There is a strict time limit to making a personal injury claim which is 3 years. As such, you must file a claim within the following timeline:
- From the date you were exposed to a noise that resulted in your suffering hearing loss
- From the date you were diagnosed as suffering from a hearing impairment that is directly linked to noise you were subjected to in the workplace – which is referred to as “date of knowledge”
It is worth noting that a personal injury solicitor would arrange for you to be examined by an audiologist and as such, you would not necessarily need your condition diagnosed by another medical professional in order to file a noise induced hearing loss claim against your employer. The specialist would determine whether your hearing impairment is work-related or due to ageing and the report they produce would be a key factor when it comes to what level of compensation you may receive in a successful hearing loss compensation claim.
Your Employer’s Responsibilities in the Workplace
Your employer has a duty to keep you safe in the workplace which includes from injury and harm. Part of their duty of care is to ensure that workers are protected from noise which could lead to hearing impairment. The laws are covered by the following legislation:
- The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
- The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005
Your employer must abide by the regulations that are set in place to protect from noise in the workplace and failing to carry out frequent risk assessments of noise levels can mean your boss is in breach of their duty. Should noise levels rise to levels of 80 to 85 decibels, the measures an employer must set in place are detailed below:
- To install quieter equipment/machinery
- To install absorbent materials and/or sound barriers
- To shorten the length of time you work in such a noisy environment
- To provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) which includes earplugs
Should your employer fail to set in place any of the above and you suffer some sort of work-related hearing loss, it could entitle you to seek compensation by filing an accident at work claim against them.
Can I Still Make a Noise Induced Hearing Loss Claim If My Employer No Longer Trades?
Even if your employer has gone out of business for whatever reason, you could still be entitled to file a noise induced hearing loss claim against them. With this said, you would need to have the details of your employer’s insurance provider in order to do so. This information can be found at the Employer’s Liability Trading Office.
Once you have contacted the insurer, a solicitor who represents you, would formally negotiate a settlement with the provider. It is worth noting, however, that if your employer’s insurance provider disputes your accident at work claim for loss of hearing, and the company has been dissolved, you may find that it would be necessary for the business to be restored through the Register of Companies which are held at Companies House. Because this can be a complicated legal process, it is best left to an experienced personal injury solicitor to carry out.
What Compensation Could I Receive for Noise Induced Hearing Loss?
The level of compensation you may be awarded in a successful work-related hearing loss claim would depend on the following which would be factored into the amount you receive:
- The severity of the work-related hearing loss you sustained and its type
- How your life and overall health and well-being have been negatively impacted
The more your condition affects your future life, the more compensation you would be awarded, whether your case goes to court or a settlement is reached beforehand. General damages are awarded for the pain and suffering you experience and special damages are awarded for all the financial losses and expenses you incur as a direct result of having develop hearing loss due to your work environment. Special damages would cover the following:
- Loss of wages and future earnings
- Medical costs and expenses
- Travel expenses
- Hearing aids which includes replacements and batteries
- Specialist treatment for tinnitus which includes counselling and “de-tinnitising amplifiers”
- Training for sign language
- Home adaptations which includes adapting telephones, alarm clocks and door bells
As such, the Judicial College guidelines for the amount you may be awarded in successful hearing loss claim, are as follows:
- Hearing loss/mild tinnitus – you may receive anything from £3,000 to £7,000
- Hearing loss/moderate tinnitus – you may be awarded anything from £7,000 to £19,000
- Deafness (total) in both of your ears with tinnitus – you may receive anything up to £70,000
The amounts provided are just a guideline of the compensation you may receive, bearing in mind that every personal injury claim is treated as unique. As such, you may find that you are awarded less or more that the amounts indicated above.
What are My Workers Rights if I Develop Noise Induced Hearing Loss in the Workplace?
All worker’s rights are very protected in the United Kingdom which means that should you develop any sort of medical condition linked to the job you do and this includes any sort of hearing loss, you have the legal right to do the following:
- To seek compensation from an employer as long as they are liable
- That your position and job is safe, even if you file a hearing loss claim
Should your employer object or feel threatened with the sack or redundancy, you should discuss your concerns with an employment lawyer who may advise you to take further legal action out against your employer.
What is the Time Limit to Filing a Noise Induced Hearing Loss Claim?
The time limit for filing a hearing loss claim is 3 years from the date you were diagnosed by a medical professional as having developed the condition. The diagnosis has to prove that your hearing loss is due to the environment you work or worked in. With this said, should you be under the age of 18 when the damage was done to your hearing, the time limit to making an accident at work claim, would begin the day you turn 18 years of age.
Waiting for too long could mean you would not be able to seek the compensation you deserve for having developed a hearing loss condition that can be directly associated with the job you do or did. Even if there is few months left on the statutory time limit, you may find that a solicitor may not wish to represent you on a No Win No Fee basis because there would not be enough time to gather all the evidence required to prove your claim against a negligent employer.
Are There Any Benefits to Working With a Solicitor on a Noise Induced Hearing Loss Claim?
Accident at work claims are complicated, legal processes more especially when work-related health issues are involved. As such, having a lawyer guide you through the process of making a hearing loss claim against an employer can make the procedure a lot simpler all round. The benefits and advantages of having legal representation includes the following:
- A lawyer would establish you have a claim by offering a no obligation, free initial consultation which would typically either be over the phone or if your case is more complex in a meeting with the solicitor
- A solicitor would agree to work on your claim on a No Win No Fee basis should they believe you have a strong case against a negligent employer who failed to keep you safe from harm and injury in the workplace
- A specialist personal injury lawyer has access to all the legal libraries which they can reference when establishing your claim
- Lawyers have vast experience when it comes to corresponding with liability insurance providers
- A solicitor would guide you through the process of gathering all the relevant information needed to prove your claim
- A lawyer would be able to negotiate an acceptable and fair level of compensation for you
- A solicitor who handles accident at work claims would arrange for you to be examined and treated by specialists and consultants in the private sector
- A lawyer would negotiate “interim payments” for you should your case be complex and therefore the final settlement may take longer to be awarded
Having the experience of an accident at work lawyer work on your hearing loss claim, can help speed up what can otherwise be a long drawn out, complicated legal process which needs to be adhered to correctly right from the outset of filing a claim.
Can My Employer Fire Me For Filing a Noise Induced Hearing Loss Claim?
Worker’s rights are protected and as such, an employer cannot treat you unfairly nor can they fire you if you seek compensation from them. If you are threatened with the sack or redundancy because you file a hearing loss claim, you should seek legal advice from an employment solicitor before doing anything else which includes resigning from your job. The reason being that you could be entitled to take further legal action out against an employer should they threaten you or object to you seeking compensation because they would be breaking the law.
Would a Solicitor Work on a No Win No Fee Basis on My Hearing Loss Claim?
Providing you can prove your claim against an employer and have strong evidence that your hearing loss can be put down to the environment you work or worked in, then a lawyer would agree to work on your case by signing a No Win No Fee agreement with you. The more in the way of proof you can provide, the stronger your hearing loss claim would be and as such, a lawyer would be happy to represent you without having to request an upfront fee or any ongoing fees from you as your claim progresses.
Conditional Fee Agreements allow for a solicitor to begin work on a hearing loss claim by contacting your employer’s liability insurance providers. All employers are obliged to hold valid liability insurance and as such it is the insurance company who would deal with every aspect of your case and this includes the settlement you receive in a successful hearing loss personal injury claim.
The CFA is a legal contract that outlines the percentage known as a “success fee” that you agree to pay the solicitor but only if you win your hearing loss claim and the amount is deducted from the settlement you receive. Should you lose your case, you would not have to pay the “success fee” because you signed a No Win No Fee agreement with the lawyer. A Conditional Fee Agreement also sets out the Terms and Conditions of the contract which provides essential information when it comes to the obligations the No Win No Fee lawyer undertakes when representing you.
To find out more information about noise induced hearing loss, the following link takes you to the NHS website that offers essential reading on this medical condition:
If you would like more data on the personal protective equipment regulations in the UK, please click on the link below: