Former BT engineer receives settlement after work related hearing loss


A Morley man who suffered noise-induced hearing loss as a result of working in a noisy environment for almost 15 years has urged companies to improve safety standards and ensure workers are issued with ear protection to prevent other people going through the same as he has.

John Whitehead, 61, has been fitted with hearing aids in both ears after his hearing deteriorated so much that he was unable to hear his doorbell or phone ringing, due to the excessive noise he was exposed to while working on the maintenance, repair and fitting of phone lines.

His roles at British Telecommunications PLC, between 1973 and 1988, included repairing and fitting domestic and commercial phone lines, which involved using green oscillator amplification sets for up to an hour a day, which enabled him to listen to noise on the line, exposing him to loud noises during his working day.

Father-of-two John instructed specialist workplace illness lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his condition and they discovered his hearing had deteriorated as a result of the noisy work environment for around 15 years, before he moved onto different roles within the company.

The legal team has now secured him a four-figure settlement from BT, which admitted liability for John’s hearing loss after experts confirmed the noise he was exposed to at work was, on the balance of probability, the cause of his deafness.

Irwin Mitchell has represented over 900 engineers across the UK whose hearing has been affected by using the dangerous oscillator devices, which have since been scrapped by BT.

Stephen Pearson, a workplace illness expert at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Noise-induced hearing loss is a very serious problem and it can have a serious impact on victims like John, whose day-to-day life has been severely affected by the deterioration in his hearing caused by excessive noise at work.

“Despite the risks of excessive noise at work being well known, we still come across many companies that failed to take the necessary precautions to ensure staff were not exposed to high levels of noise. The BT Oscillator device is notorious and thankfully is no longer used by BT, but it has left a lasting legacy of people struggling with hearing problems.

“In John’s case he has been fitted with hearing aids long before he imagined he would have such difficulty with his hearing and we are delighted to have been able to secure him a settlement that will help him to cover the costs of the devices he will now need for the rest of his life.”

Father-of-two, John, also suffers with tinnitus as a result of the excessive noise he was exposed to while working for BT. Tinnitus causes sufferers to hear sounds when there is no external source of noise, often in the shape of buzzing, humming, grinding, hissing and whistling.

John said: “Having poor hearing has really affected my day-to-day life. I noticed my hearing was deteriorating when I struggled to hear when I was in noisy surroundings and when I could no longer hear my phone or doorbell ringing.

“Now I have been fitted with hearing aids, which enables me to hear, but I’m still struggling to get used to them. The fact that all of these problems have come about due to the noise I was exposed to at work is extremely upsetting and I can’t help but be angry that I was not given any sort of hearing protection. If I had I wouldn’t be suffering these problems so early in my life.

“The only thing I can hope is that cases like mine are a reminder to employers of the need to offer workers the safety equipment they need at work, particularly those who spend a lot of time in a noisy environment.”