Hearing loss caused by military service has been a problem for centuries. High levels of combat operations in recent years has caused widespread damage to our troops, the majority of whom believe that the MOD will routinely compensate them for their hearing loss. It is not that straightforward.
Hearing is tested at various levels using an audiogram. Those reading this blog will be familiar with the set up. You sit in a quiet room, or a sealed box, wearing headphones wired to a machine which emits sounds into your ears. Each time you first hear, then stop hearing, a sound, you press a button. The sample graph pictured below is a typical picture of someone with Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL).
A good guide for NIHL is to see a ski jump type shape like this. For an infantryman it is more common for the left ear to be most effected as that ear tends to be closest to the noise (assumes a right-handed firer). Hearing loss in the lower frequencies is generally indicative of another cause e.g. a constitutional condition.
There are 3 compensation routes for serving troops and veterans:
The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme – injuries suffered after 6th April 2005
Under this scheme, acoustic trauma (gunfire, artillery, mortars, IEDs etc) causing permanent sensorial hearing loss is measured by comparing the average hearing level in decibels (db.) over 1, 2 and 3 khz although a starting point Level 13 award of £6,180 is prescribed for a blast injury to ears or acute acoustic trauma due to impulse noise. This level does not stipulate average hearing levels nor permanence of loss. The maximum lump sum payment for total deafness in both ears is a Level 2 award of £484,000 plus a Guaranteed Income Payment (assumes you have been medically discharged).
A higher Level 11 (£15,965) and Level 10 (£27,810) award is made if the average is over 50 and over 75db respectively. The rationale behind this seems to be that the frequencies of 1 to 3kHz are apparently the frequencies over which normal speech is best heard and losses over these frequencies will cause more of a disability in discriminating normal conversation. However, this appears unfair as it only takes into account one of the three noise sensitive frequencies, namely 3kHz, but ignoring 4kHz and 6kHz. Unless there is a change in the AFCS legislation, only those cases with an average of 50db or higher will qualify for an award of more than £6,180.
For our chap, if he was eligible, you might expect Veterans UK to pay him a Level 13 award, but I have known them to reject such examples.
A link to the tariff is here
War Pension Scheme – injuries suffered before 6th April 2005
Under this scheme, any Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) must be assessed by doctors instructed by Veterans UK to cause you at least a 20% disability. If it is assessed at less than 20%, you get nothing. How they assess the 20% or more is anyone’s guess but assume that the 20% loss will again only focus on the hearing over 1, 2 and 3kHz.
An AFCS/War Pension claim is relatively straightforward to pursue although it can take an age to get a decision. You may call Veterans UK direct to report a claim or prepare and post the application yourself. Alternatively, you can ask for advice from a service charity (ideally one which has a caseworker who knows how to prepare the papers) or speak to Alma Law; it’s very easy to come unstuck.
A Civil Claim
To win a civil (negligence) claim against the MOD, at first you need to prove that you have suffered hearing loss (NIHL) after being exposed to excessive noise. However, please note that the MOD will oppose any case brought purely on hearing loss suffered during combat operations. You must also prove that it was caused by their failure to provide you with adequate protection and to regularly monitor your hearing.
A typical case is where NIHL is identified during, say, periodic testing and you get a downgrade, but your unit then negligently fails to restrict and protect you from exposure to further dangerous levels of noise and your hearing is made much worse and you get medically discharged whereupon you suffer significant financial loss.
The crucial factor in a claim for hearing loss is whether you have brought the case in time. In law you have only 3 years to settle a claim or start court proceedings and the clock starts at the time of the accident (a car crash for example) or the date you knew the injury was serious and it was caused by another. If you miss that deadline, you have lost the chance to claim. See my earlier blog on time limits. I see lots of guys who may have a good case, but who likely fall outside the 3-year limitation period, unless:
- They have been subject to a negligent exposure by the MOD to further harmful acoustic trauma within the preceding 3 years; and
- That they should have been protected and
- The MOD failed to protect them
Don’t leave it too late. If you suspect you have hearing loss and it was caused by your service, take on board this advice and then contact us for a confidential, no obligation chat about your prospects.
26th September 2018
Grant served for 10 years with 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery where he was trained as an Arctic and Jungle Warfare specialist; military skiing instructor; artillery surveyor; parachutist; combat driver; combat medic; diver and Platoon Weapons Instructor.