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Nov 3, 2010

Industrial Deafness – A Long Latency Timeline


There can be instances when a claim for industrial deafness will be pursued many years after hearing damage was first sustained after excessive noise level exposure. A majority of personal injuries, which occur within the workplace, are obviously apparent, immediately diagnosed and treated. In the aftermath, once accident liability is established a compensation case can be embarked upon.

Unfortunately, there are types of injury or illness resulting from by an industry caused disease – such as contracting asbestosis or mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos – whereby, the long latency period of up to 50 years or more before symptoms appear will point to the effects of an employer’s negligence. Noise induced hearing loss within the workplace can sometimes fall into the same category. Several decades of gradual but imperceptible deterioration in hearing can often occur before any legal action is taken.

In a recent example, an industrial deafness compensation claim was settled some 40 years after a male construction worker first sustained hearing damage whilst working on two major building projects in the North of England over a fourteen year period. Each project lasted three years each, during which time, exposure to excessive levels of noise from pneumatic drills, JCB diggers, power tools and other plant machinery was continuous.

Failure by the company employer to provide suitable hearing protection at any time, such as ear defenders or ear plugs, led to permanent hearing damage, which left the unfortunate victim unable to hear normal conversation or higher register sounds. It was because the reduction in hearing occurred slowly over several decades, that the worker only realised that he was suffering from permanent loss of hearing when he found he was increasingly having to ask for people to repeat themselves several times at least before understanding what was being said.

Studies consistently show that hearing loss is not always inevitable during the ageing process, when hearing damage can more often be attributed to excessive noise exposure at work taking many years to develop into full blown industrial deafness.