Hearing Loss and Tinnitus to Nightclub, Bar and Music Venue Workers
Like any industry where noise is part of the working environment, working within the nightclub and entertainment industry for a prolonged period can cause permanent irreversible damage to someone’s hearing. But could this damage been seen by the courts as the fault of your employer? In this article, we will take a brief look at what must be shown to prove not just that you have suffered workplace-related hearing damage, but also that the responsibility of this loss falls upon your employer.
First, you have to show that the employers had knowledge that exposure could cause permanent damage. It has been known for over a hundred years that exposure to noise in industry could cause deafness. In many industries such as shipbuilding, coal mining it was known that becoming deaf in later life was a consequence of the job, indeed this was seen by some workers as a badge of pride for their time as a worker.
NOISE AND THE WORKER
It was not until the publication of ‘Noise and the Worker’ in 1963 that employers were deemed to have widespread knowledge of the damage that sound exposure can cause. Generally this means that exposure caused before 1963 cannot be claimed for, as the employers will not be seen as having the knowledge. After 1963, employers had the requisite knowledge and should have protected their employees.
NOISE AT WORK REGULATIONS
Following this 1963 publication, there has been further legislation to tighten the duties owed by the employer. Firstly, there was the ‘1989 Noise at Work Regulations’ which came into force on the 1st of January 1990.
These set down two action levels: the first action level of 85dba meant that at this level or above, hearing protection must be offered and training provided on the damage noise can do to hearing. The second action level was at 90dba, and made hearing protection mandatory for noise exposure at this level or higher.
From April 2006, this duty was tightened even further as a result of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. In particular, the action levels previously mentioned were reduced to 80dba and 85dba respectively.
INDUSTRY VERSUS OLD AGE
Once you have been able to prove that you were exposed to the required noise levels and that your employer also had knowledge of the foreseeable risk to your hearing, you then have to show that your hearing loss was because of noise exposure and not simply due to age or other factors.
Noise-induced hearing loss does not usually take rapid effect immediately following exposure. Generally it is something that gradually becomes noticeable over time, when the loss associated with noise exposure is added to natural wear and tear. For this reason, many people simply put their hearing loss down to age, not thinking it could be due to noise exposure at work sometimes many decades prior.
The condition known as tinnitus which is a buzzing/ringing sensation in one or both ears is a condition that can be caused by excessive noise exposure. Although tinnitus can be quite mild, it can also become a severe problem that affects many different aspects of a person’s life, even leading to associated issues such as depression and anxiety. If a consultant finds that hearing loss is due to noise, it is not unusual for them to also link the tinnitus to work – even if the noise exposure ceased many years before the tinnitus became noticeable.
To prove that hearing loss is caused by work, you will undertake an audiogram hearing assessment. This is a test where you will normally be put into a soundproof or quiet environment and have to listen for tones/beeps and different frequencies. From the result of the audiogram, an Ear Nose and Throat consultant will be able to diagnose noise-induced hearing loss. To have a diagnosis of noise-induced hearing loss the results of the audiogram will show either a recovery (Notch) in the higher frequencies or a dip (Bulge) in the higher frequencies. The level of loss is marked over the lower frequencies which are the frequencies that generally hear speech phonics.
If you have worked in a noisy nightclub, bar or music venue without hearing protection, it is highly likely that you have been exposed to levels of noise that could permanently affect your hearing. It is also likely that you have been exposed to levels where your employer should have been providing the necessary protection.
WHAT TO DO NEXT
If you believe your hearing issues stem from your job, contact us today if you wish for this to be investigated. There are strict time limits in making claims, so you should look into taking action as soon as you are aware of the potential link with your work.
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