Is Noise Induced Hearing Loss at 4 kHz De Minimis or Compensatable?

August 6, 2015

Workplace noise exposure over years can cause damage to hearing. In occupational deafness litigation a key battleground between Claimants and Defendants has been the hearing frequency the damage was caused at. Damage can be caused at different frequencies measured in Kilohertz (kHz). A very high pitched sound would be at 8 kHz, a very low pitch sound would be at 1 kHz.  Conventionally Courts have looked at damage at 1, 2 or 3 kHz.

A number of recent decisions such as Holloway v Tyne Thames Technology Ltd (7 May 2015 Newcastle County Court) found that damage to hearing at 4kHz was de minimis or so minor or trivial as to not merit any award of compensation.  Effectively the Court said the damage at this frequency made little or no difference to the Claimant.

Members of St John’s Buildings disease team, Alastair Wright, Rebecca Sutton and Henry Vanderpump have acted in two recent cases dealing with this contentious area.

In Hinchliffe v Cadbury UK Ltd (12 May 2015 Leeds County Court) although HHJ Gosnell found that the hearing loss was not caused by noise exposure he thought noise damage at 4 kHz would be compensatable if the Claimant was made appreciably worse off by damage to that frequency. Click here to download the judgment.

In Briggs v RHM Frozen Foods Ltd (30 July 2015 Sheffield County Court) HHJ Coe QC found that the Claimant was appreciably worse off as a result of 10 to 15 dB noise induced hearing loss at 4 kHz. Click here to download the judgment.

By Henry Vanderpump, Barrister, St John’s Buildings Disease Team.