Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is normally associated with operations that take place in a confined space, but outdoor work activities (such as using power tools) and even leisure pursuits such as shooting can cause NIHL.

In a recent case, a refuse and recycling collector who had worked in his occupation for several years was found to have mild NIHL. Although the collection process was noisy, he was not told to wear ear protectors or given warning that exposure to noise is dangerous until the last couple of years of his work.

Having presented expert evidence of the noise levels attaching to the refuse collection process, the likely level of exposure the man suffered and evidence that his hearing loss was due to NIHL (the results of the hearing tests for NIHL are usually very distinctive), he settled with his council employer for £3,000.

NIHL is irreversible and can cause considerable social impairment. The maximum hearing loss is at the frequencies at which the distinctive features of certain sounds occur. A common first indicator is if you can hear what people say but they seem to be mumbling and pronouncing their words indistinctly.

There are strict standards that apply for permissible noise levels at work and employers whose premises or work type expose their employees to noise should ensure that they comply with these. In addition, employers have a duty to ensure that employees wear appropriate hearing protection at all times and that this is properly cared for and maintained.

If an employer fails to take appropriate action, an employee who suffers hearing loss as a result may well be entitled to compensation.

If you think your hearing has been damaged because of exposure to noise in your workplace, contact a member of our team for advice.