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A vision for compensation after suffering industrial deafness

Occupational noise-induced hearing loss (ONIHL) is both common and preventable in Australia. It can hurt the livelihood of the person suffering from deafness, as well as their families and loved ones. A 2020 research initiative, entitled “Productivity Burden of Occupational Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Australia: A Life Table Modelling Study,” suggests that more than 80,000 male workers and over 31,000 female workers will suffer ONIHL over 10 years of industrial, work-related noise exposure. 

Realising you are one of these victims can be devastating, but with the help of an experienced lawyer, you could make a successful claim.

Hearing the facts on industrial deafness

ONIHL accounts for about 11% of all occupational disease claims for around 4,700 people in 2020 according to a 2020 Safety Solutions white paper. It amounted to $240 million in economic loss for those who suffered from the disease, and defendants paid victims around $41 million in workers compensation claims. 

Understanding what occupational noise is starts with defining noise itself, and examining how loud noises affect your ability to hear. 

Inside your ear, sound travels through your ear canal toward the eardrum, where tiny hair cells pick up a sound’s vibrations and then send electrical signals to your brain. Over time, these cells die off due to damage (typically from exposure to loud noise), and lose the ability to transmit vibration.  

Not all noises will damage your hearing, however. Sound is measured in decibels. Lower-decibel sounds like leaves rustling do not do any damage to your hearing, whereas higher decibels, like loud screaming directly in your ear, absolutely will.  

Sounds you can hear without the use of protection include:

  • Natural breathing.
  • Normal conversation.
  • A vacuum.
  • An alarm clock.
 When you are exposed to a sound for long periods, the excessive noise can chip away at or completely eradicate the hair cells in your ears. 

A vacuum or an alarm clock will usually register at around 70 decibels, which is safe to hear without any protection. When near sounds above 80 decibels and up to 120 decibels, such as in an underground railway, on an industrial site or at a loud music concert, protective ear covers should be worn. Above this level, any amount of sound that is not properly protected over a long period will cause permanent and severe damage.  

Industrial sounds that fall under this category include:

  • Dynamite blasts.
  • Pneumatic drilling.
  • Jet engine take off.
  • Artillery fire.

Signs of industrial deafness

If one’s hearing impairment develops slowly over time, the first signs of occupational deafness may be inability or difficulty hearing a conversation over loud background noise. Tinnitus is also common in people of all ages, and presents in one or both ears as intermittent or constant ringing or hissing.

If the cause of deafness is immediate, such as resulting from an explosion or the sound of a gunshot at close range, the eardrum may pop and the bones around the ear will be damaged. In these cases, the victim will experience severe pain, as well as permanent or partial deafness.

Medical testing for hearing impairment

Getting your injury tested and diagnosed will be your first step towards understanding your hearing loss and subsequently making a claim. Proving you have occupational hearing loss will help you in winning compensation for your pain and suffering. 

Medical tests with a professional otolaryngologist, or hearing doctor, should be performed as soon as you notice any changes in your hearing. You may undergo some or all of the following during your exam, according to the Mayo Clinic: 

  • Physical examination: The doctor checks for any earwax, inflammation or structural issues.
  • General screening test: Your doctor will perform a whisper test to check how loud a sound must be for you to hear it. 
  • Tuning fork test: A two-pronged metal instrument produces sounds when struck and will indicate to your doctor where in your inner ear the damage has occurred.
  • Audiometer tests: While wearing headphones, you will hear a series of beeps, sounds and whispers to determine how much you can and cannot hear.

Getting regular checkups during this time will help you follow the digression of your hearing while you search for an industrial deafness compensation lawyer that can help you make a claim.

Compensation for industrial hearing loss

Medical records will help support your claim of workplace hearing loss, but they won’t prove that you lost your hearing at work. To support your compensation claim, you will need to provide your lawyer with your work history. A good lawyer will do their due diligence in tracking down any similar claims made against the companies you worked for or the recorded conditions of the workplace. 

If the event happened all at once and you lost your hearing immediately, you should first go to a doctor for medical attention and then find a lawyer to help you file a claim thereafter. Identifying the employer that caused the deafness can help shorten your road towards compensation. 

You may want to collect testimonials from your co-workers if you know which employer caused the injury. Their testimonials may support that other employees on the job site had no access to ear protection, or that there were unsafe conditions where a disruptive noise caused the deafness. 

Hearing loss and legal process

It’s best to work as quickly as possible as all compensation claims have a time limit within which you can file. Turning to Gerard Malouf & Partners for your industrial deafness claim is your best risk-free option. We are the largest law firm for workplace injury claims and have helped Australians win more than $4 billion in compensation. 

Contact us for no-obligation legal advice about your claim. 

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