Personal Injury
By Conal McGarrity
Latest News

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

In our everyday lives, we experience sound in our environment, such as the sounds from television and radio, household appliances, and traffic. Normally, these sounds are at safe levels that do not damage our hearing. However, sounds can be extremely harmful if they are too loud, even for a brief time. These sounds can damage sensitive structures in the inner ear and cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

NIHL can be temporary or permanent, it may be immediate, or it may develop over time, and it can affect one or both ears. Often, people who are suffering from NIHL report that they were not aware their hearing was being damaged.

Two of the most common signs of NIHL;

  1. Sounds become distorted with increased difficulty in understanding other people when they talk.

  2. Ringing in ears.

Sound is measured in units called decibels. Sounds at or below 70 A-weighted decibels (dBA), even after long exposure, are unlikely to cause hearing loss. However, long, or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 dBA can result in hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for NIHL to happen.

Below are the average decibel ratings of some familiar sounds:

  • Normal conversation – 60-70 dBA

  • Movie theatre – 74-104 dBA

  • Motorcycles – 80-110 dBA

  • Music through headphones at maximum volume, sporting events, and concerts -94-110 dBA

  • Sirens – 110-129 dBA

  • Fireworks show – 140-160 dBA

Case Study

However, we often find ourselves in situations where we cannot control the volume around us i.e. in the workplace. The hearing loss, also referred to as industrial deafness, is often as a result of extended exposure to noise at work within the working environment.

Mr Cato from Lancashire was diagnosed with noise induced hearing loss as a result of working at the merchant navy. Mr Cato worked as a marine engineer between 1970 and 1980. He was often required to work in engine rooms of company ships and was constantly exposed to extremely high levels of noise from engines and boilers. Unfortunately, he was not provided with any hearing protection nor was Mr Cato given any warnings on the dangers of noise exposure.

Mr Cato reported that he was not the one who noticed his initial symptoms, in fact it was his wife who complained that he had started put up the TV volume too high. Shortly after, Mr Cato noticed that he was having difficulty understanding people when speaking and he was beginning to experience a ‘whistling’ in his ears which not only affected his daily routine but his sleep as well.

After Mr Cato’s diagnosis, he reached out to the Trade Union and instructed a legal team who assisted him in recovering compensation of £20,000, for which he was legally entitled to.

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