Industrial deafness, also known as noise-induced hearing loss or occupational deafness, is an alarmingly common condition where loss of hearing occurs as a result of constant, high–level noise at the workplace. The condition usually develops over a prolonged period of time, and can be one of several different types that include temporary loss of hearing, permanent loss of hearing, acoustic shock syndrome and tinnitus.
There are certain workplaces where noise is just another part of daily business, such as the music industry, construction, quarrying, mining, foundries, engineering and factories. There isn’t much one can do to avoid excessive noise in such circumstances, yet extensive exposure to loud noises is the prime cause of industrial deafness.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics, there are an estimated 1 million workers in the UK who are at risk of losing their hearing because they’re employed in industries most susceptible to industrial deafness.
If your workplace frequently has noise levels of around or above 80 dB, then chances are that you might be suffering from a case of industrial deafness. Age is one factor that must always be taken into account in such cases though, as deafness can often be a natural part of the ageing process and might not necessarily be related to the workplace. The most common symptoms of industrial deafness include:
Lack, or total loss, of hearing – permanent or temporary – in either one or both ears.
Inability to properly hear the TV or radio unless they’re at high volume.
Struggling to understand or totally missing out words and whole sentences in conversations.
Having to strain to hear and comprehend speech with background noise.
Hearing constant noises, such as buzzing, droning, hissing, ringing, roaring, and ticking.
It is highly recommended that you consult a medical practitioner immediately if you suspect that you might be suffering from a case of industrial deafness. Fortunately, permanent damage to hearing can be prevented if industrial deafness is identified swiftly and treated by a qualified medical specialist who employs noise reduction measures.
If you are diagnosed with industrial deafness, you might be referred to a specialist. Depending on your assessment, they might require further tests. Treatment includes the use of a hearing aid and noise therapy. Although it can be controlled, loss of hearing remains an extremely difficult condition to treat and to cure.
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 attempts to protect workers in industrial deafness susceptible industries. It dictates that employers are obligated to enforce noise reduction measures to ensure the health and safety of their employees. They can achieve this through a variety of measures, such as:
Providing employees with hearing protection equipment if the noise at the workplace reaches high levels and cannot be reduced due to business purposes.
Provide proper training to employees regarding the use of hearing protection equipment.
Attempt to reduce noise levels by optimizing the workplace layout to make it quieter or by reposition the noise-producing equipment and machinery so that employee exposure to it is decreased.
There are various measures and precautions that can be employed to prevent industrial deafness. If you happen to suffer from it and feel justified in making a compensation claim against your employer’s oversight or negligence, contact Accident Advice Helpline on 0800 689 0500 for help with the claim.
Date Published: January 5, 2014
Author: David Brown