Research suggests that a staggering 50% of the population will suffer with some form of hearing loss during their life. Because hearing loss mainly affects people of an older generation people automatically assume that it’s merely a sign of aging. It’s not. Although old age, a lot of the time, is coupled with a general deterioration of health, you shouldn’t always put hearing loss down to your age.
There are two types of hearing loss. One of them is natural – i.e. caused by old age – and one of them is not, and is known as noise induced hearing loss. In order to find out you would have to take a small hearing test that would help determine the type of hearing loss that you’re suffering with.
Noise induced hearing loss affects a lot of people who have worked in noisy environments. However, a lot of people don’t realise this, which is why there are thousands of people out there whose hearing has deteriorated and they’ve put it down to old age, when in fact it could be down to their current or past occupation.
If, after undergoing a hearing test, it’s found that your hearing loss is as a result of noise exposure then you could be entitled to compensation as all employers have a duty of care to employees, which includes protecting their staff from noise.
Regular exposure to sounds of 85 decibels (dB) and above has the potential to cause hearing loss. A lot of people think that it’s only really loud noises, like explosions, that have the capability to cause hearing loss but this isn’t the case. Everyday items like hairdryers and vacuum cleaners give off sounds of about 85dB. However, small amounts of exposure, for example drying your hair or vacuuming every day, won’t cause you any harm; but if you’re working with a constant noise of this level five days a week then it could easily cause problems.
Don’t be mistaken into thinking that volume doesn’t have an effect though, because it does. If you’re exposed to sounds that are even louder than 85dB then it will take a shorter period of time for it to affect your hearing. For example, if you’re at a music concert, where sounds are usually around 120dB, then it will only take 7.5 minutes for your hearing to be affected. However, using a vacuum cleaner (85dB) won’t cause any harm until you’ve been using it constantly for around eight hours.
Volume isn’t the only factor, length of exposure is also important. The longer noise is exposed to a worker, the more likely they are to develop hearing loss. The opposite is also true, the louder the noise the quicker hearing loss can be caused. The decibel level and length of exposure needed to develop noise induced hearing loss can be calculated;
If you work in a noisy environment then you should first try to tackle the problem of the noise. Talk to your employer about investing in things such as new machinery and sound proofing, which would help to reduce the scale of the problem. If these kinds of measures aren’t possible then you should request ear muffs and/ or ear plugs. These two can be worn together if necessary and will seriously help limit the amount of noise that you’re exposed to. Unless it’s necessary, don’t feel the need to wear them all day because areas of loud noise should be clearly signposted and ear muffs and plugs should be provided as you enter.
Many of the older generation will have been exposed to loud noises in their previous occupations. Noise induced hearing generally only affects high frequencies; this means that you’ll struggle to hear the doorbell and telephone.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of hearing loss then you should see a doctor. They will perform the relevant tests and help with diagnosis. If you’re diagnosed with noise induced hearing loss then don’t hesitate to contact a legal professional who could help bring a compensation claim against your employer(s) or previous employers