Tinnitus refers to a ringing, humming or throbbing feeling in one or both ears, typically due to damage to the tiny hairs in the inner ear. The symptoms of tinnitus can be debilitating and affect every aspect of your life, including your ability to work and social relations.
Tinnitus affects at least 13% of the UK population, and the number of people affected by the condition is estimated to increase by more than 550,000 over the next decade. It is not always clear what causes tinnitus, but it is often linked to prolonged exposure to excessive noise at work.
Other causes of tinnitus include ear infections, diabetes, car accidents and taking certain medicines, such as antibiotics and aspirin. If another person caused you to develop the condition due to negligence, you might be entitled to make a tinnitus claim.
The compensation for tinnitus covers the physical and mental suffering caused by the condition, as well as any financial costs you have incurred. If you have valid grounds to take legal action, your solicitor will likely offer you a no win no fee service.
Do I have a valid tinnitus claim?
A free consultation with a personal injury lawyer is the easiest way to determine if you can take legal action. Nonetheless, if you have developed tinnitus without being at fault, you should be able to make a tinnitus compensation claim.
As a general rule, it is usually possible to claim compensation if:
- You were diagnosed with tinnitus in the last three years
- Another person, such as your employer or a healthcare professional, owed you a duty of care
- They breached their duty by acting negligently
- You suffered ear damage that led to tinnitus as a result of this negligence
Depending on the type of negligence that caused you to develop tinnitus, your solicitor will help you gather evidence to support your claim, which could include:
- Medical evidence, such as notes from your GP or a hearing specialist;
- A professional diagnosis of depression, anxiety or another psychological disorder caused by your condition;
- Accident report forms if you developed tinnitus due to an accident in a public place;
- Police reports, if your symptoms are due to a violent crime;
- Videos or audio recordings of your working environment to prove the level of volume you were exposed to;
- Information about your work tasks, the type of machinery you are operating at work, the training and equipment you received to protect yourself from noise damage;
- Witness statements from co-workers regarding the workplace conditions;
- Your notes and statements from family and friends about how tinnitus affected your life;
- CCTV or dash cam footage if you suffered tinnitus in a road traffic accident.
For a free consultation with a legal adviser, call 0800 678 1410 or fill out our simple online claim form. They can let you know if you may be eligible to make a tinnitus compensation claim and can answer any questions you may have.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a term that describes the sensation of hearing ringing, buzzing, hissing or other sounds in either one or both ears. For some people, the noise is continuous, but it can be intermittent for others and can vary in loudness.
Tinnitus often worsens when the background noise is low, such as when trying to fall asleep in a quiet room. This can be quite frustrating, painful and irritating, and can make it hard to carry out daily tasks at work or in your personal life.
Although it is not life-threatening, tinnitus can affect the victim’s quality of life and lead to stress, anxiety, depression and other complications, including:
- Sleep disturbances
- Trouble concentrating
- Memory problems
In many cases, the condition cannot be prevented, but there are precautions you can take to avoid certain types of tinnitus:
- Use hearing protection if you are a musician or work in a loud environment. If your employer has failed to provide proper protective equipment and you suffer ear damage, you may be able to make a tinnitus claim.
- Take care of your cardiovascular health to keep your blood vessels healthy and prevent tinnitus linked to diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
- Limit the intake of alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, as they can affect blood flow and contribute to the condition.
If the cause of your condition is unknown or cannot be treated, there are several treatments available to reduce symptoms, such as:
- Hearing aids make the sounds you need to hear louder and the tinnitus harder to notice;
- Sound maskers, which you wear in or behind the ear and provide low-level white noise to help block out the ringing;
- Relaxation techniques such as exercise and deep breathing to ease your worries and reduce symptoms;
- Medicines, including certain hormones, topical anaesthetics and antianxiety drugs show promise in treating the condition;
- Acoustic neural stimulation delivers a broadband acoustic signal that helps change neural circuits in the brain to desensitise you to the tinnitus;
- Counselling can help you understand how tinnitus works and help you learn how to live with it.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is not a disease but a symptom that something is wrong in the auditory system, whether the ear, the auditory nerve or the brain part that processes sound. The most common cause of tinnitus is prolonged exposure to loud noises, typically in the workplace.
Nonetheless, something as trivial as earwax blocking the ear canal could cause tinnitus. Other common causes that may entitle you to claim tinnitus compensation include:
- Noise-induced hearing loss causes damage to the hairs inside your inner ear. As a result, they can send random electrical impulses to the brain, causing tinnitus.
- Ear and sinus infections usually cause temporary tinnitus, but repeated infections can lead to long-lasting symptoms. If your healthcare professional has failed to diagnose or treat your condition, you might have a valid claim for tinnitus.
- Head or neck trauma may affect the inner ear, nerves or the brain areas responsible for hearing and usually cause symptoms in only one ear. If another person caused your accident by acting negligently, you might be able to claim compensation for tinnitus.
- Various medications, such as cancer drugs, certain antibiotics or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can cause or worsen the symptoms of tinnitus and may lead to a medication error claim.
- Medical conditions such as diabetes, brain tumours, heart disease, anaemia or allergies may also trigger tinnitus and entitle you to make a medical negligence claim.
Similar to whiplash, claims for tinnitus can sometimes be fraudulent because the condition is typically diagnosed based on medical history and symptoms alone. However, your doctor may order various tests to try and identify the underlying cause of your tinnitus, such as:
- A hearing exam and movement tests
- Imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI
- Blood tests to look for anaemia, thyroid problems, vitamin deficiencies or heart disease
Regardless of how you developed tinnitus, if someone else was at least partially responsible, you could make a tinnitus claim. If your solicitor believes you can take legal action, they will offer you a no win no fee agreement so you can claim tinnitus compensation with no upfront costs or financial risk.
Can I make a tinnitus claim against my employer?
As mentioned above, tinnitus is often caused by prolonged exposure to loud noises in the workplace. Anyone can develop the condition if they are exposed to dangerous levels of noise and certain occupations have an increased risk of tinnitus, including:
- Road maintenance
- The military
- Heavy industry
- Car manufacturing
When working in a loud environment, employers have a duty to protect employees from hearing damage and tinnitus, set out by various pieces of legislation, such as:
- The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005
- The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
- The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
- The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992
- The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)
According to these laws, employers must take all reasonable measures to protect the health and safety of employees at work, including:
- Conduct regular risk assessments to identify hazards
- Provide information about safety policies and risk assessments
- Provide adequate health and safety training and supervision
- Make sure the noise levels do not surpass the legal limit of 80-85 decibels
- Adapt to technical progress and use more silent equipment if possible
- Use silencers on machinery to reduce noise levels
- Make sure employees take reasonable breaks from the loud working environment
- Put in place sound barriers and sound-absorbing materials
- Provide suitable and free of charge personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Ensure there are regular healthcare checks in place to monitor the employees’ hearing
If your employer failed to enact some or all of their duties and this caused you to suffer from tinnitus, you could be entitled to make a tinnitus compensation claim. You might also be able to claim even if you are self-employed or a contractor, as long as it was not your responsibility to control the working environment.
Could I be sacked for claiming compensation for tinnitus?
If your employer is liable for your diagnosis, you could claim for tinnitus. Under the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969, most employers are legally required to take out insurance against liability for personal injuries to employees.
If you make a claim, their insurance will pay your tinnitus compensation, while your employer will not be left with any out-of-pocket expenses. Nonetheless, many employees worry that taking legal action might cost them their job.
However, it would be illegal for your employer to sack or discipline you because of your claim for tinnitus. According to unfair dismissal laws, you could take them to an employment tribunal if you are forced to leave your job against your will or without a valid reason.
You can usually make a constructive or unfair dismissal claim if you have worked for your employer for at least two years, but there are some exceptions to this rule. Your solicitor will be able to provide support and advice on the matter and make sure your right to make a tinnitus claim is protected.
How much compensation can I claim for tinnitus?
Every tinnitus claim is different, and your unique circumstances will determine how much compensation you could receive if your case is successful. After gathering all the evidence, your solicitor will determine how the condition affected your life to work out a suitable settlement amount.
Every personal injury claim covers two types of damages:
Special damages for the financial losses and expenses you incurred due to tinnitus. These are usually easy to calculate by summing up your receipts, invoices, and other documents related to:
- Medical costs such as consultation fees, diagnostic tests and prescriptions
- Transportation costs to and from medical appointments
- Lost wages due to taking time off work
- Cost of counselling and psychological support
- Hearing aids and other equipment to ease your symptoms
General damages compensate for the physical injury and the way it affected your life, taking into account the following:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Anxiety, depression and other psychological injuries caused by tinnitus
- Loss of consortium
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of a unique career
- Inability to pursue a hobby
- Loss of enjoyment of life
The compensation for general damages is awarded based on similar successful cases and the guidelines published by the Judicial College. According to them, you could receive the following:
- Up to £5,590 for some minor tinnitus
- £6,910 to £11,820 for occasional or minor tinnitus plus slight deafness
- Around £11,000 for moderate tinnitus
- £11,820 to £13,970 for mild tinnitus plus some hearing loss
- £13,970 to £27,890 for mild to severe tinnitus alone
- £29,710 to £45,540 for severe tinnitus and loss of hearing
Can tinnitus claims be made on a no win no fee basis?
No win no fee is the preferred way of funding a tinnitus compensation claim because it allows you to take legal action regardless of your financial situation. If your solicitor believes you have a valid case with a fair chance of success, they will likely offer you a no win no fee service.
Besides not having to pay anything to your solicitor upfront, no win no fee offers several other advantages, including:
- You get free advice and support at every step of the claims process;
- You can be sure that you have a valid tinnitus claim, as your solicitor cannot recoup their costs if you lose;
- Your solicitor will take care of the legal documents and proceedings to reduce your stress to a minimum;
- No win no fee motivates your lawyer to win the maximum compensation for tinnitus that you are entitled to;
- If your case fails, you do not have to pay anything to your solicitor;
The no win no fee service also takes the worry about paying legal fees if your claim for tinnitus is unsuccessful out of the equation. This is due to the After the Event (ATE) policy that your solicitor will take out on your behalf. ATE is a legal expenses insurance that covers all the costs incurred during the claiming process, including:
- The other side’s solicitor fees
- Medical and police reports
- Travel expenses related to litigation
- Court and counsel fees
- Expert witness fees
- Barrister fees if your case goes to trial
No win no fee can be used regardless of whether you are claiming against your employer, a road user, a healthcare professional or any other person or entity. If you lose your case, you will not incur any out-of-pocket expenses. You only have to pay a fee if your claim is successful, which will consist of the following:
- The cost of the ATE insurance premium;
- A success fee that cannot exceed 25% of your compensation award.
Is there a time limit to make a tinnitus compensation claim?
Under the Limitation Act 1980, there is usually a three-year time limit to bring a claim after the date of an accident. In the case of tinnitus, you may be claiming after years of cumulative damage, so the three-year countdown to claim tinnitus compensation starts after being diagnosed with the condition.
If you do not start legal proceedings within the time limit, your case becomes statute-barred, and you can no longer claim compensation.
However, the time limit to claim compensation for tinnitus may differ in certain circumstances. For example:
- If the victim is a child, a parent or another litigation friend could bring a tinnitus claim at any time. The three-year time limit starts to run once the victim turns 18.
- There is no time limit to claim on behalf of a person who lacks the mental capacity to conduct legal proceedings. The three-year time limit only begins if the person recovers and is deemed capable of making their own claim.
- If you developed tinnitus due to a violent assault, the time limit to claim for tinnitus through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is two years after the incident.
- There is a seven-year time limit to claim compensation through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) if you developed tinnitus while serving in the military.
- You could still claim if your accident happened abroad, but the time limit can vary significantly from country to country.
Regardless of what time limit might apply to your case, you should always seek legal advice as soon as possible after an accident or receiving a diagnosis. This will usually make it easier to collect supporting evidence and ensure you can file your claim within the limitation date.