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09 June, 2016

hearing defenders

Here at First4Lawyers we often deal with industrial disease, this includes, but is not limited to, hearing loss. Alongside this, comes tinnitus. An irritating illness that is often as a result of prolonged exposure to loud noises without sufficient hearing protection.

What is it?

Tinnitus is the term for hearing phantom noises in your ears. Rather than coming from an outside source, these sounds come from inside the body. It is often described as a ringing noise in the ear, but different sounds may be heard such as humming, hissing, or buzzing. It may be in one ear or both and can affect sufferers in a variety of ways.

There are also other forms of tinnitus. You may hear sounds that beat in time to your pulse for example, this is known as pulsatile tinnitus. Or, your hearing may have deteriorated and you may be more sensitive to sounds, this is known as hyperacusis.

Hearing deterioration may come as the result of continuously being around loud noises without hearing protection, such as in a loud working environment. Failure to provide employees with hearing protection where extra protection is needed is against health and safety regulations, and you may have a claim if this has affected your hearing or caused you to have tinnitus.

ear plugs

Is it serious?

Tinnitus is rarely the sign of an underlying condition, and often will only be a minor irritation that comes and goes. However, for those who experience tinnitus continuously, it can be very distressing, and can have a large impact on everyday life. It may also lead to other issues such as insomnia and depression.

In many cases it should get better over time, but it is important to seek medical advice to determine any underlying causes and help you cope with the problem.

What causes tinnitus?

The more common causes of tinnitus are:

  • Age related hearing loss: those over 65 are more likely to experience hearing loss, and possibly tinnitus as a result
  • Otosclerosis: an inherited condition where an abnormal bone grown in the middle ear causes hearing loss
  • An earwax build up
  • Inner ear damage caused by repeated exposure to loud noises (this may also be experienced for a short term after a music concert)
  • An ear infection
  • Meniere’s Disease: a condition that also causes hearing loss and vertigo

Rarer causes include:

  • A head or neck injury
  • Some medicines, especially in higher doses, such as medications used to treat cancer, may have this effect
  • Overactive, or underactive thyroid disease
  • Acoustic neuroma: a rare non-cancerous growth which effects the inner ear hearing nerve
  • Diabetes
  • Anaemia

However, 1 in 3 will not have any obvious problems with their ears or hearing. In many cases an exact cause cannot be found.

There are two types of tinnitus:

  • Subjective: only you can hear it
  • Objective: A doctor who is examining you will be able to hear it. This is rare and can be caused by a blood vessel problem, muscle contraction or a middle ear bone condition

When should you see a doctor?

If your tinnitus is the result of an upper respiratory infection such as a cold, or flu, and it does not improve within a week then visit your GP.

If your tinnitus occurs suddenly or without an apparent cause, see your doctor immediately

If you have hearing loss and/or dizziness alongside your tinnitus, see your doctor immediately.

Who is affected?

  • Most people who have been to a music concert will have been affected (normally for a short period of time)
  • Those who are exposed to loud noises regularly, without sufficient hearing protection
  • Tinnitus is estimate to affect around 10% of the population, with around 1% being severely affected to the extent that it changes their quality of life
  • It is more common in those over 65, but can affect any age
  • It is more common in men
  • It is more common in smokers
  • Those with cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure

When would you have a claim?

It is required that you be issued with hearing protection where extra protection is needed in addition to noise control, but should not be issued as an alternative to controlling noise. If your ear protectors allow more than 85db per ear to be heard, then the protection is insufficient. If these rules are not followed and you suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus as a result, you may have a claim.

The 3 year limit for hearing loss claims applies from when you begin suffering symptoms and link it to a certain environment. For instance, if you were working in a factory 30 years ago but your hearing has only recently deteriorated enough for you to notice then you would still have a claim. Hearing loss isn’t always instantaneous.

Need more advice?

If you or a family member have suffered as a result of prolonged exposure to loud noise without sufficient hearing protection then you can speak to our experts today by calling First4Lawyers on the number at the top of your screen or completing our claims form.

Our friendly team will be able to give you an accurate appraisal, giving you all the information you need to be able to proceed with a compensation claim.