Causes and Symptoms of Industrial Hearing Loss

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By Grace Hickman

on Monday 18 December 2017

Construction worker with noisy jackhammer

What is Industrial Hearing Loss?

Millions of people are affected by or at risk of hearing loss from an excessive exposure to noise at work and it is important to be aware of the types of industrial hearing loss as well as the causes and symptoms. 

Permanent hearing loss and temporary hearing loss can occur immediately, or it can develop over a longer period of time. By the time people realise that they have ear damage, it is often too late and they don’t realise that it may have been brought on by the environment in which they work/worked.

If you have experienced symptoms of deafness then you are entitled to claim for industrial hearing loss, however there are industrial deafness time limits of typically three years. 

Employers should be ensuring that regular risk assessments are carried out in the workplace, particularly those with noise levels reaching up to 80 decibels or more, and that employees are supplied with good quality hearing protectors. You could be eligible to make a claim for compensation if you have suffered any form of industrial deafness due to a negligent employer who breached their 'duty of care' to you.

Types of Industrial Hearing Loss:

There are four common industrial hearing damage claims relating to the type of industrial hearing loss you are or have experienced. These are; temporary hearing loss, permanent hearing loss, accoustic shock syndrome and tinnitus. The types of claims are outlined in more detail below.

Temporary Hearing Loss 

If someone works somewhere involving constant, loud noise-exposure, damage to the inner ears can cause temporary deafness; in one ear or both. In this case, you should remove yourself from your working environment for some time to allow hair cells in the ear to repair and replenish. In noisy workplaces, ear protection must be a priority for all staff.

Permanent Hearing Loss 

If temporary hearing loss has been endured over many years without any improvement, then irreplaceable deafness is likely to occur. A high level of chronic exposure to loud noise in the workplace can lead to further damage to the inner ears, especially if you are provided with low quality or no protection. Eventually, this will cause hearing to be lost permanently, which can be life-changing and debilitating.

Acoustic Shock Syndrome (Acoustic Trauma) 

This can occur if people have been exposed to loud, unexpected, sudden noises close to the ears, causing eardrum damage. Examples of noises that can cause acoustic shock disorder include; explosions, gunshots or loud sounds emanated from telephones. Some people have described acoustic shock syndrome as having a stabbing feeling in the ear(s) and other symptoms that come with it include burning sensations, nausea and distorted hearing.


This is most commonly known as a loud ringing in the ears, involving sounds of buzzing, whistling, clicking and hissing, even if there are no other sounds present. If the auditory nerve is affected or damaged by loud noise exposure at work then Tinnitus can set in, along with other symptoms of deafness. In some cases, it remains permanent, which can be incredibly distressing.

Having to put up with conditions such as these can also lead to various psychological effects, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and a lack of sleep; no one should suffer from any of these symptoms, especially due to a negligent employer.

What causes Deafness?

Many people assume that deafness is a result of age and don’t realise that it could have stemmed from a lack of protection in a noisy working environment. By seeking medical attention and receiving a medical report, the results will be able to determine the cause of your deafness; whether it is work-related or not.

Some of the main causes of industrial hearing loss are:

  • A one-off burst of sound, such as an explosion or any other loud, piercing bang.
  • Continued exposure to loud noise in work, especially if workers are not protected.
  • If the employer does not comply strictly with the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 and take action to protect workers in areas that reach 80 decibels or more.
  • A lack of Hearing Protection Zones in the workplace.
  • Inadequate hearing protectors provided by the employer.

Noisy work environments include:

  • Steelworks
  • Building and Construction
  • Mining
  • Factories
  • Textile production
  • Engineering
  • The Military
  • Air Traffic Control
  • Nightclubs
  • The Music and Entertainment industry   

Noisy equipment or machinery that produces loud noise:

  • Hammering
  • Machines
  • Pneumatic impact tools
  • Guns
  • Sewing and weaving machines
  • Speakers
  • Saws and cutting machinery
  • Drills
  • Vehicles
  • Faulty telephones

These lists are not exhaustive: there are a variety of environments and objects that can lead to the onset of industrial hearing loss.

What are the Symptoms of Hearing Loss?

The symptoms of deafness can be frustrating and often painful, escalating to others that can further lead to psychological problems. Here are the main signifiers of hearing loss:

  • Difficulty to hear or muffled/distorted sounds in one or both ears
  • Other noises in ears; ringing, buzzing or hissing
  • Struggling to hear when talking on the phone
  • Constantly finding the television too quiet, while others find it loud enough
  • Confusing similar words when people speak
  • Difficulty when communicating in places with background noise
  • Finding it tough to keep up with conversations
  • Struggling to sleep due to pains in the ear(s)
  • Vertigo and nausea
  • Headaches

Treatment for Hearing Loss

Whether hearing loss develops instantly or gradually, or it is temporary or permanent, there are many things that can help you. Some are:

  • Hearing aids
  • Hearing, cochlear, auditory brainstem and middle ear implants
  • Sign language and lip reading

These can be costly and involve complicated procedures, so taking steps to prevent deafness is essential and all employers must protect their staff from obtaining any conditions. Claiming for industrial hearing loss compensation can also help you in your recovery by providing financial support for treatment and time off work. 

How to claim for industrial deafness

If you feel that you have suffered from hearing loss due to a negligent employer and ineffective protection in your workplace, then you may be able to make a claim for industrial deafness compensation. Although some forms of deafness are irreplaceable, we can help provide you with more information and guidance on successfully getting compensation, which could help towards paying for any treatment, courses or aids.

It is best to seek immediate advice, as there can often be strict time limits for achieving a positive outcome of an industrial deafness claim, so call our team at Accident Line Direct today to receive free, professional advice from one of our experienced advisors.

0808 1454275

Accident Line Direct can help you begin your potential claim, get in touch today!