Hearing buys tale of tinnitus
A federal public servant will receive compensation after proving the her office was too loud.
The staffer secured victory in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, after Comcare rejected her first two compensation applications.
The customer service officer did not have to prove that the office caused her head pain and hearing problems, but only had to demonstrate that they had been aggravated by the noise.
Among the causes of aggravating noise were a call bell, emergency alarm, radios and ambient office noise (staff talking), she argued.
Considering all of these things together, and potentially in combination, the tribunal agreed she worked in a noisy office.
The claim specifically listed her injury as ‘hyperacusis’ - over-sensitivity to certain volumes and frequencies – combined with hearing loss and tinnitus.
The tribunal heard that the definition from the Code of Practice for Managing Noise and Preventing Hearing Loss at Work identified that a sound of level 80 decibels (about the same as a ringing alarm clock) was “noisy”.
Medical experts accepted that the office where the woman worked was loud enough to worsen her hearing. One doctor said he saw nothing in her history of noise exposure that could explain her hearing loss, tinnitus or hyperacusis.
She had no diagnosed medical condition of the inner ear capable of explaining the conditions, one of the medical experts said, while another claimed the hyperacusis at least could have been triggered by prolonged exposure to unpleasant noise, such as the call bell.
“Prior to 2011, when the call bells were not operational, and before the use of headsets caused [head] pressure, [she] did not have any hypersensitivity to noises, including those outside of work,” AAT member Sandra Taglieri said.
“The hyperacusis only developed after [she] had been repeatedly experiencing difficulty with the headsets and call bells.”
Ms Taglieri said the case was now back to Comcare.
“The application is successful and the decision under review is set aside.
“The matter is remitted to the respondent [Comcare] to give effect to these findings.”