Earlier this month, the UK Council on Deafness held Deaf Awareness Week. Supported by over a hundred deaf organisations and charities, the event aimed to improve understanding of the various types of deafness and methods of communication and to promote awareness of the array of local and national organisations that support deaf people and their families.
There are of course many causes of deafness; in some cases people are born with complete or partial hearing loss, in others it happens as a result of illness or an accident.
Work related deafness
Sometimes a person’s work can be responsible for their hearing loss and this is called ‘industrial deafness’ or ‘occupational deafness’. In their Labour Force Survey, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimated that in 2009/2010, 21,000 people who had worked over the previous 12 months were suffering what they believed to be work-related hearing problems. And a Medical Research Council survey in 1997-1998 estimated a total of 509,000 people in Great Britain were suffering from hearing difficulties due to exposure to noise in their workplace.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) compensates workers disabled by a ‘prescribed occupational disease’, including occupational deafness, via the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit Scheme. Based on average new assessment rates between 2007 and 2009, energy and water supply, construction and manufacturing and extraction were the industries in which occupational deafness was found to be most prevalent.
Compensation for industrial deafness
As well as compensation via the DWP benefit scheme, workers can also be awarded a lump sum in damages if their employer is found to be responsible for their hearing loss.
Payout levels range from £20,500 to £30,000 for total loss of hearing in one ear and £4,850 to £30,000 for partial hearing loss, sometimes referred to as Tinnitus.
Engaging a solicitor with specialist expertise in industrial deafness claims is extremely important as sometimes evidence dating back several years will need to be gathered, and in some cases a company that has since ceased trading may need to be reinstated in order to pursue the claim.