Acoustic Shock Compensation Claims

It is probably fair to say that the majority of adults will have heard of Noise Induced Hearing loss, but even though Noise Induced Hearing Loss and acoustic shock both stem from the same thing, noise, they are different conditions.


Damage to hearing caused by loud noise

Noise Induced Hearing Loss is usually the result of prolonged exposure to excessive levels of noise during the course of a person’s employment. It is permanent and the damage irreversible. It is a condition that develops over a period of time and more often than not only becomes noticeable as you get older even though the exposure to noise may have occurred many years earlier.

On the other hand, acoustic shock may arise from one sudden burst of sound or a sudden high pitched sound being “broadcast” directly into a person’s ear drum.

Acoustic shock injuries are most common amongst telephone staff - in particular, those workers employed in a call centre type environment. One of the most common causes of acoustic shock injuries occurs when a call centre worker experiences a sudden loud and unexpected blast of noise through the telephone headset, as a result of a technology malfunction.

Initially, reports of injury following exposure to loud unexpected sounds from telephone headsets were treated with some scepticism.  However, over time it has become clear that injuries resulting from acoustic shocks such as high pitched startling noises including shrieks, spikes howls screeches and squawks were becoming more frequently reported and that there was a common thread running through the type of injuries reported.

As reports of acoustic shock have increased it has become apparent that a combination of the following symptoms are reported:-

  1. Anxiety
  2. Headaches
  3. Ear pain
  4. Facial numbness and tightening
  5. Fatigue
  6. A feeling of pressure in the ear
  7. A feeling of vulnerability
  8. Hearing problems
  9. Pain/soreness to the ear and/or neck
  10. Tinnitus.

Acoustic shock is a modern day issue and an issue and one concern to those working long hours in call centres.   According the Health and Safety at Work Act an employer has a duty to their employees to protect them from health risks in the workplace.   Acoustic Shock is one such risk.

Acoustic shock is the result of a hypersensitive neurological reflex or startle reflex being activated and it is this reaction that causes the injury.

It is the general consensus that people pre-disposed to or suffering from stress at the time of an incident are more susceptible to an acoustic shock incident and this may in some cases result in long-lasting episodes of anxiety and apprehension.

The loudness and length of the shock experienced by a person can have a profound effect impacting on their quality of life and ability to do their job.

Whilst in many cases the period of suffering is relatively brief there have been several cases against BT where Claimants have received 5 figure awards of compensation.    

An employer should be minimising the risk of acoustic shock. This means employers, who require their employees to use headsets, should pay particular attention to the effects of this type of injury. The employers’ obligations are set out in the Health and Safety at Work act 1974 and the Noise at Work Regulations 2005.

To comply with their obligations an employer should provide good quality headsets. Hearing protection devices have been around for a long time and should, where possible, be used. Additionally call handlers and other employees should be trained to recognise incidents of acoustic shock and recognise the need to report them.

Adequate training should also be given to employees to ensure that where possible they are encouraged to lower the volume on a headset as this simple step will often be sufficient to reduce the risk of an incident of acoustic shock occurring in the first place.

If you believe that your hearing has been damaged as a result of acoustic shock, contact our specialist acoustic shock and noise-induced hearing loss solicitors for compensation advice. Call our specialist team on 0333 123 9099 today, or drop us an email at and one of our industrial solicitors will be in touch as soon as possible.