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Living with Industrial Deafness

The ability to hear sounds and share them with others is something most of us take for granted. However, in 2011 there were more than 10 million people with hearing loss in the UK and this is expected to grow to 14.5 million in 2031.

The biggest cause of hearing loss is old age.  By the age of 80 the majority of people will experience significant loss of hearing.  However, hearing loss often develops from being exposed to loud working environments over a long period of time.  This is often referred to as industrial deafness.  And it is not just manufacturing workers who are at risk. In findings released in May this year, professional musicians were found to be four times more likely to suffer hearing loss and 57% more likely to develop tinnitus than the general public.

Duty of employers

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 requires that employers either eliminate workplace noise at the source, or where this is not reasonably practical, reduce noise to as low a level as possible.  However, many employees still suffer hearing loss when exposed to a continuous level of noise over a long period of time.

Living with the problem

So what is it like to live in a world that is partially or completely silent?  “It has definitely affected my social life”, explains former Senior Constable Mike Stephens, who suffers from partial hearing loss after participating in firearms training with the police force.  “I don’t like going out much anymore because I can hear next to nothing when I am in a crowd of people, it makes it impossible to try and hold a conversation”.

Partial loss of hearing can affect people physically, mentally, emotionally and socially and it can lead to feelings of isolation, depression and inadequacy.  Some examples of the challenges hearing loss can bring include:

• Not hearing someone talking to you, especially if your back is turned to the person speaking
• Feeling patronised when people talk loudly or slowly
• Difficulty understanding people on the telephone
• Difficulty finding employment, or having to accept positions below an individual’s level of expertise

In order to manage hearing loss and prevent further damage, prompt diagnosis is necessary, but unfortunately, the average adult delays seeking medical help for hearing loss for five to seven years.

Delaying treatment

Delays in seeking treatment are mostly caused by an individual’s denial into how their loss of hearing is affecting their day to day life.

A common treatment for managing hearing loss is having a hearing aid fitted.  Many people are reluctant to acquire hearing aids because they feel embarrassed.  As hearing aids are visible to others, often people feel that they will be treated differently, so they continue to ‘soldier on’ and manage their life around their disability.

Fact: According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) current production of hearing aids meets less than 10% of global needs

Support for the Hearing Impaired

Where can a person who struggles with hearing loss go for support?  There are many organisations available including:

•  Action on Hearing Loss
•  British Tinnitus Association
•  National Association of Deafened People

The first step to finding the right support for you is to talk to your health professional.

If you have suffered complete or partial hearing loss and you believe it was someone else’s fault, you may be entitled to compensation – for more information see our loss of hearing page.

If you wish to talk further about your situation contact us on 0845 345 4444 or fill in our contact form, and our friendly advisers will discuss your situation with you.