World Hearing Day is held on the 3rd March each year to raise awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and to promote ear and hearing care across the world.
At Biscoes, we see many clients that are affected by noise induced hearing loss (NIHL), particularly current or past military personnel.
Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) can be caused by prolonged exposure to excessive levels of noise. It can also be caused by extremely loud bursts of sounds such as gunshots or explosions. Sufferers of noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) can often find living with their symptoms to be very frustrating and a source of embarrassment.
How does one’s hearing become damaged by loud noises?
Sound waves enter the outer ear and travel through the ear canal, which leads to the eardrum. The eardrum vibrates from the incoming sound waves and sends these vibrations to three tiny bones in the middle ear.
The bones in the middle ear couple the sound vibrations from the air to fluid vibrations in the cochlea of the inner ear, which is shaped like a snail and filled with fluid. Once the vibrations cause the fluid inside the cochlea to ripple, a traveling wave forms along the basilar membrane. Hair cells, which are the sensory cells sitting on top of the basilar membrane, ride the wave.
As the hair cells move up and down, microscopic hair-like projections that perch on top of the hair cells bump against an overlying structure and bend. Bending causes pore-like channels, to open up. When that happens, chemicals rush into the cell, creating an electrical signal. The auditory nerve carries this electrical signal to the brain, which translates it into a sound that we recognise and understand.
Most NIHL is caused by the damage and eventual death of these hair cells. Once they have been damaged, the damage cannot be reversed.
What are the symptoms of NIHL?
When you are exposed to loud noise over a long period of time, you may slowly start to lose your hearing. You might not notice it until the signs become more pronounced. This often occurs with the onset of natural age associated hearing loss (AAHL).
Many of our clients, particularly those who serve, or have served, in the Armed Forces, notice deterioration in their hearing immediately. This can arise if they have been exposed to extremely loud bursts of sounds such as gunshots or explosions.
Loud noise exposure can also cause tinnitus which can present as a ringing, buzzing, or roaring in the ears or head. Tinnitus may subside but can often be permanent and very debilitating. Hearing loss and tinnitus can occur in one or both ears.
Unfortunately, damage to hearing is permanent and it cannot be restored once it has been lost. However, it may be possible that hearing aids could be of assistance. In cases of tinnitus, aids to mask the noise created by the tinnitus may be useful.
How much compensation could I claim if I have NIHL?
Levels of compensation can vary dependent on the individual circumstances of a case. Legal professionals are assisted in their assessment of how much a Claimant should be awarded by tariffs set out in the Judicial College’s Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases (“JC Guidelines”).
These Guidelines state:
Partial Hearing Loss or/and Tinnitus
This category covers the bulk of deafness cases which usually result from exposure to noise at work over a prolonged period. The disability is not to be judged simply by the total measurement of hearing loss; there is often a degree of tinnitus present and age is particularly relevant because impairment of hearing affects most people in the fullness of time and impacts both upon causation and upon valuation, such that the amount of noise-induced hearing loss (‘NIHL’) is likely to be less than an individual’s total hearing loss.
Severe tinnitus and NIHL.
£26,040 to £39,940
Moderate tinnitus and NIHL or moderate to severe tinnitus or NIHL alone.
£13,080 to £26,040
Mild tinnitus with some NIHL.
£11,040 to £13,080
Slight or occasional tinnitus with slight NIHL.
£6,450 to £11,040
Slight NIHL without tinnitus or slight tinnitus without NIHL.
Up to £6,140
In addition to damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity, Claimants may also be able to claim for their past and future financial losses. An example of a case we successfully pursued is as follows:
Compensation for loss of hearing and tinnitus
Our industrial disease team successfully secured compensation for our client after he suffered deafness and tinnitus. Our client’s role was to remove the pins from bombs attached to fighter jets. He was not provided with suitable hearing protection and was deafened by the sound of the fighter jet’s engine warming up. We successfully recovered £114,000.00 for our client.
Johnathan Steventon-Kiy, specialist industrial disease lawyer, says:
“If you, or anyone you know, has been diagnosed with, or is suffering from, noise induced hearing loss (NIHL), it is really important to seek assistance as soon as possible. We have specialist solicitors that can assist you and guide you through making a claim and advise on what you may be able to claim for.”
Contact our specialist personal injury, medical negligence and industrial disease solicitors on 02392 660 261 or visit www.biscoes-law.co.uk for more information. You can also follow us on twitter using the handle @biscoesmedneg