The impact of Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) cannot be underestimated. It is almost always irreversible. In other words, it is a permanent injury.
It’s not just a difficulty in hearing and understanding others, sufferers can face a lifetime of other debilitating symptoms and the long-term consequences of NIHL can be devastating. Symptoms include:
- Tinnitus – a distressing and often constant ringing or buzzing in the ear
- Stress and depression
- Social isolation
Studies also link hearing loss with a decline in brain function. So, it’s imperative that your hearing is protected.
High levels of combat operations in recent years has caused widespread hearing damage to our troops, the majority of whom believe that the MOD will routinely compensate them for their hearing loss. They will not.
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 suffer the brunt of the damage.
There are 3 compensation routes for serving troops and veterans:
A Civil Claim
To win a civil personal injury claim against the MOD, you need to prove that you have suffered hearing loss (NIHL) after being exposed to excessive noise without adequate hearing protection.
When the MOD fails to issue you with suitable hearing protection, fails to conduct a regular medical review and, generally, fails to protect you against the risk of suffering NIHL, then a deafened individual can pursue a personal injury claim.
A typical case is where NIHL is identified during periodic testing and you are given a medical downgrade. However, rather than making changes to protect you from exposure to further dangerous levels of noise, nothing is done and your hearing loss worsens, often leading to medical discharge a decade or more before your expected run-out date.
If you have had an audiogram already, we will ask you to send this to us and ideally, in addition, any audiograms which were conducted prior to you being negligently exposed to the damaging levels of noise. In this way we can compare the before, and the after.
If you’re concerned that you’re suffering from hearing loss that could potentially have been caused by exposure to loud noise during military service, but not yet had an audiogram, as a veteran it should be simple for you to arrange a test locally. They are easy to undergo and painless.
Access to your service medical records, personnel and unit files will be required to enable us to understand your whole case and to prepare a detailed witness statement from you in which you can explain, in your own words, how, when and where you were exposed to damaging levels of noise. We will arrange for you to be assessed by independent medical experts who may ask you to undergo further assessments in order that they can be quite certain of the extent of the damage that you have suffered.
If we can prove and win your case, significant personal injury damages will follow.
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 long overdue amendment to the AFCS legislation, only those cases with an average of 50db or higher will qualify for an award of more than £6,180.
War Pension Scheme – only for 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 your hearing over 1, 2 and 3kHz.
An AFCS/War Pension claim ought to be relatively straightforward to pursue, but they are not, and it can take an age to receive 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 application) or speak to Alma Law; it’s very easy to come unstuck.