Scotland police officers look to legal claim for hearing loss

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by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The Glasgow Times in Scotland reported that police officers in Edinburgh are prepared to launch legal claims after developing hearing loss and tinnitus from fireworks on Bonfire Night. I googled Bonfire Night and learned that it’s also known as Guy Fawkes Night. This celebrates the historical attempt to blow up the Parliament building in London. 

The police officers claim their hearing was damaged by a continuous barrage of fireworks as they were trying to suppress an unruly event in an Edinburgh neighborhood. The police department had bought earplugs — or “hearing defenders” is the term they use — but these had not yet been issued to the officers because they hadn’t been tested. They have since been tested and given out.

The article states that new laws allow municipalities to designate “Fireworks Control Zones” in which fireworks can be prohibited. The Glasgow City Council has started to work on this, and Edinburgh and other cities are considering doing the same.

Hearing protection for police and members of the military is a difficult problem. These workers are some of the few whose jobs specifically include the risk of assault. Their hearing must be protected, but they must also maintain situational awareness to protect themselves while they are doing their jobs. It’s too bad that these police officers weren’t issued their earplugs sooner.

Noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus are permanent problems. Amplification remains the only treatment for hearing loss and cochlear implants are reserved for the profoundly hearing impaired. There are treatments for tinnitus, but some are costly and they are not 100% effective. I hope the police officers in Edinburgh are successful in obtaining appropriate compensation and treatment for their occupationally-cause auditory damage.

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