Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a permanent loss of hearing and can be suffered by people of all ages. Although it is generally the result of prolonged exposure to excessive noise levels, it can also be as the result of a sudden loud noise, such as a gunshot or explosion.
In 2020, we were approached by a young man who was suffering hearing loss, which he believed was caused through exposure to excessive noise at work. With his kind permission, we tell his story:
After leaving school *David tried his hand at carpentry, but soon realised it wasn’t the job for him. Over the next few years, he worked in various roles in a factory, on the railways and in construction.
In 2006, he secured a job as a trainee overhead linesman, where he worked on overhead power cables for National Grid. This job involved him working at heights between 100ft and 500ft above ground.
By 2009, the company was taken over by Babcock Networks Ltd, and David’s job changed to chargehand, which involved him operating huge, noisy, diesel-powered machinery. Over the next few years, he worked on various contracts throughout the country, all of which involved exposure to high noise levels.
David said: “It was so noisy that when I spoke to a work colleague on the radio, I had to get within 6 inches of the radio to be able to hear them. And if I was communicating with a work colleague generally, I had to get to within about 2 feet of them and shout to make myself heard.”
Regardless of the noise levels, Babcock never supplied hearing protection, except on one occasion when they trialled the use of a hi-tech hard hat with built in ear protection.
David added: “I was only given the hard hat for one shift. I’ve no idea what happened after that, but I did hear a rumour that they cost £2,000 each.”
Concerned about the noise levels, raised the issue with his line manager several times, but no action was taken.
In 2016, David stopped working for Babcock, and went back to his previous job of overhead linesman. This was where he had his first hearing test in 2017; the result was satisfactory. However, when he had the next hearing test in February 2018, at just 28 years of age, he was told that his hearing was “on the way out”. His employer arranged a further hearing test in 2019, which resulted in a referral to the audiology department at Doncaster Royal Infirmary. There he was fitted with a hearing aid in his left ear and told that his hearing in the right ear was also impaired.
Stephen Bradley-Watson, personal injury solicitor specialising in workplace injuries, commented: “My client first became aware that he had hearing problems in 2017, when he started having ringing in his ears, especially at night and he was finding it difficult to hear conversations when he was in a group of people.
“But it wasn’t until February 2018, when he had that second hearing test, that he realised his hearing problems were due to his employment.”
“Fortunately, he approached us within the statutory 3-year claim period, so we were able to pursue his claim against Babcock for noise induced hearing loss and worked on a no win no fee basis, ensuring that the client didn’t incur any financial costs.”
Babcock eventually accepted liability and agreed to an out of court settlement of £17,500.
*Not the client’s real name