Hearing experts understand that there are two types of hearing loss, conductive or sensorineural. (HearingLoss.org, 2015) Each type of loss is characterized by different symptoms, and both can be caused by very different things.
The sensorineural hearing loss is the one in which loud noises and trauma are leading causes, and yet conductive hearing loss can also be due to foreign bodies in the ear, perforated eardrums, or fluid in the middle ear. In this way, there is no single set of causes most often experienced by those working offshore or in the maritime industries that leads to hearing loss, and yet it does happen very often.
What the details about hearing loss do reveal is that someone who has lost their sense of hearing (or had it noticeably reduced) while on the job will probably be able to hold their employer responsible for the damage. Whether the hearing loss is due to a single incident or ongoing exposure, it is quite likely that the eventual loss of this vital sense was not the fault of the individual but the setting, environment, or conditions in which they worked.
A lot of maritime workers mistakenly accept the risks of their industry as “part of the work”, but that is not the correct way to view this situation. There are several sets of federal and industry laws and standards that are in place specifically to reduce or prevent such problems from occurring.
For example, let’s say that an explosion occurred on a ship and this led to the hearing loss. There are many ways that the owner of the vessel or the employer can be identified as being negligent and liable for the hearing loss sustained by a member of the crew. Remember though, it does not have to be a single incident that creates a liability for the employer.
Hearing loss can and does result when explosions occur. However, a blow to the head, exposure to extreme conditions (such as a plunge in icy waters), ongoing sound at dangerous levels without ear protection, and a list of other factors can all cause someone to suffer hearing loss. If an employer has not taken every safety precaution to prevent any of these things from happening, they can indeed be liable.
Losing one’s ability to hear is more debilitating than many think. It can offset your sense of balance and make it difficult to walk while onboard a ship or even on stable ground. It definitely diminishes the quality of life, and leaves you vulnerable because you cannot hear sounds that help you to remain safe in all surroundings. Any loss of hearing, in one or both ears, could leave you unable to continue to work in the maritime industry, and may even make it difficult for you to find rewarding work.
If you or a loved one has suffered hearing loss over time or from a single accident or incident in the maritime industry, get in touch with a qualified maritime lawyer. They will know which laws uphold your claims, and will be able to pursue your rightful compensation. There are several acts and laws that ensure that maintenance and cure (financial support to enable you to get the medical care needed and to maintain a decent standard of living) are provided. You don’t have to suffer from hearing loss if it was not something you caused. If your maritime employer could have prevented your hearing loss, they are legally obliged to help you deal with the disability.