Industrial Deafness

What is Industrial Deafness?

Industrial deafness is noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). Prolonged exposure to industrial noise can cause permanent hearing damage. Traditionally, occupational noise has been a hazard linked to heavy industry, such as construction and ship building; but where insufficient protection is used, this can also occur on airfields, in night clubs and in other noisy places. Sustained exposure to noise over 85 decibels also has other health implications, it has been shown to cause stress and it can also raise systolic blood pressure. As health and safety has become more modernised, research and health and safety bodies have indentified noise as an occupational hazard.

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.

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.

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 in the 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).

Why Beacon Law?

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. We can help you to collate all of the required proof and documentation to help establish your hearing loss claim. We can also provide useful information and advice on industrial deafness as well as guiding you towards suitable support groups and information resources. Please call us today on 08000 886644 to discuss your hearing loss claim.