Industrial noise is a hazard in of itself, as it can mask warning sounds and signals, such as alarms; and it can also impede concentration, leading to accidents which can have further ramifications for employee health.
As health and safety has become more modernised, research and health and safety bodies have indentified noise as an occupational hazard.
The damage caused by prolonged exposure to occupational noise can also work in synergy with dangerous substances, such as solvents to cause further ear damage. Damage of this kind, caused by a toxin, is known as ototoxicity. The effects of ototoxicity vary, but they often include partial hearing loss and they can affect balance (disequilibrium); these symptoms can sometimes be reversible depending upon the extent of the damage and the specific cause.
There are a variety of industries and occupations that may be affected, but the most notable are those involving vehicle and aircraft noise and prolonged exposure to loud music and industrial noise. If you believe you are suffering for industrial deafness as a direct result from work please fill out the contact form to the right of the page.
What Causes Industrial Deafness?
Industrial deafness and noise induced hearing loss is caused by trauma to the stereocilia of the cochlea (the fluid filled structure of the inner ear) The visible part of the ear, combined with the middle ear, amplifies sound pressure levels by 20 times. This results in the delivery of extremely high sound pressure levels to the cochlea, even when caused by normal atmospheric sounds. So when personnel are exposed to the sounds like those of hammer drills, plane engines and sirens, the piercing sound levels cause trauma to cochlear structure in the inner ear. This is the prime cause of irreversible industrial deafness.
Interestingly, loud sounds at specific frequencies can damage the hair cells in the cochlea that detect sounds of that specific frequency. This reduces the ear’s ability to hear noises at that frequency over time. The problem is that loud noises of any frequency can have damaging effects across the entire hearing range; so where an individual has become desensitised to sounds of a particular frequency, they may not feel the need to protect themselves from them; incurring further damage across the hearing spectrum.
Industrial Deafness Diagnosis
Diagnosis of Industrial Deafness is relatively straight forward, but the cause takes a little longer to determine. Some people lose their hearing with age and so this may not be attributed to noise. To get a better idea of the cause your GP will explore a number of areas.
These can include:
- Discussing medical and work history, exploring potential sources of loud noise exposure
- An examination of the ear
- Referral to an Audiologist or ENT surgeon for further tests
- Tests may include tuning fork tests and pure tone audiometry
- From here, after running tests your GP and specialists will be able to determine which form of industrial deafness you may have, whether its temporary loss of hearing, permanent loss of hearing, acoustic trauma or tinnitus.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss Symptoms
If you have only suffered partial hearing loss, it may be difficult to realise it, particularly if it has been progressing for a number of years. Some of the most common industrial deafness symptoms include:
- Lack of hearing in one or both ears
- Missing part or full sentences in a conversation
- Struggling to hear speech when there is background noise
- Having to turn up the TV or radio to high levels to hear properly
- Temporary or permanent lack of hearing
- Constant ringing, buzzing, hissing, droning, roaring and ticking noises is a sign of tinnitus
If you struggle to hear certain sounds in you day to day life, they may be similar, or on the same frequency as, sounds you are exposed to in the workplace.
If when a colleague is 2 metres away, you have to shout to them to be heard, it is likely that the noise level is above 85 dB. If you are only 1 metre away and you have to shout to be heard, then it’s possible that the noise is above 90dB. Where 80dB is the threshold for ear trauma, the aforementioned environments are likely to cause noise induced hearing loss if insufficient protection is provided.
The use of pneumatic drills, angle grinders and impact guns for over half an hour a day can also contribute to this trauma and could make you a future candidate for industrial deafness if you are not suffering already.
Industrial Deafness Treatment
Unfortunately, like many occupational illnesses, industrial deafness is difficult to treat. The damage caused by sudden piercing noises or the gradual degradation of hearing over time is thought to be irreversible. As a result, health and safety bodies place a huge amount of emphasis on the prevention of hearing loss. Due to its irreversible nature, it is also important to monitor hearing to ensure that if you do suffer, you are diagnosed early to prevent further loss of hearing.
Tinnitus is also incurable, so treatment usually consists of sound therapy and the use of desensitising amplifiers to help make the sounds caused by tinnitus redundant.
Otherwise, the only way to regain hearing sensitivity is to use digital hearing aids, middle ear implants, or cochlear implants. In the event of complete hearing loss, the only remaining option is to sign up to a sign language course, such as those offered by British Sign Language (BSL).
Industrial Deafness Claims for Compensation
Pursuing a claim for industrial deafness requires that you prove your hearing injury was sustained as a result of working within your occupational environment. This will involve collecting witness statements from colleagues as well as the provision of documented evidence from employers detailing workplace conditions. You will need to demonstrate that at the time of noise exposure, your employer could have foreseen and prevented the sustained hearing injuries; this will establish whether or not they were negligent in their responsibility to provide a safe working environment for you.
If you are suffering with industrial deafness, having to go to great lengths to prove it can be frustrating, so at Asons Solicitors, we can help you to collate all of the required proof and documentation to help establish your claim. We can also provide useful information and advice on industrial deafness as well as guiding you towards suitable support groups and information resources.
Am I Likely to be Affected by Industrial Deafness?
If you are suffering with industrial deafness, you may already be experiencing the symptoms. If you are still unsure however; Some of the worst affected areas include:
- Furniture manufacturing
- Heavy fabrication
- Machinery and equipment manufacture
- Motor vehicles
I Think I May be Suffering, What Should I Do?
If any of the above applies to you, or if you feel that you may have been exposed to excessive noise levels in the past, you should consult with your GP. If you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms that would indicate an advanced case, speak to your GP immediately.
You should talk to your GP about:
- Any past or present jobs with an industrial deafness risk
- Your symptoms and Treatment
- Tests you may need
- Whether you should see a specialist audiologist or ENT surgeon
- How to Protect yourself and others
Asons’ experts on NIHL have put together a comprehensive resource which details statistics and causes of noise induced hearing loss, and details how to cope after a diagnosis alongside a list of valuable resources, called ‘Noise-Induced Hearing Loss – Do You Suffer?’.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) provides plenty of helpful information regarding noise at work; along with printable collateral for use in the work place. Other useful information and advice groups include:
- British Tinnitus Association
- Royal National Institute for Deaf People
- Deafness Research UK
- British Deaf Association
- National Association of Deafened People
If you have spoken to your GP and have received a diagnosis, or if you suspect that you may be affected you should speak to us about filing an industrial deafness claim today. We can provide assistance for a variety of industrial deafness claims. In talking to us you will receive the utmost care and attention whilst we deal with your claim and we’ll keep you updated along every step of the way.