BT engineers who worked for BT before the 1990s may suffer from tinnitus and hearing loss of various levels of severity. This is due to working with tone sets provided by BT that were far too loud and also pitched in such a way that they caused hearing damage. These tone sets are also known as oscillators or amplifiers, and were used to help when installing or detecting faults in residential and commercial BT phone lines.
Image by Victor
BT engineers may well have assumed that their usage of these tone sets, especially the green and yellow tone sets, was completely safe. However, BT have admitted fault in the matter of their oscillators causing hearing problems in the past, with the result that workers involved in line maintenance, line installation and engineering who used their green and unmodified yellow oscillators could be able to make a claim.
As such, if you or someone you know worked for BT before the 1990s and suffers from hearing problems, get in touch. You could be able to claim!
How To Tell If A Tone Set Gave You Hearing Problems
Hearing problems can be subtle. If you worked for BT, and especially if you can specifically recall using green and yellow amplifiers during the period between 1960 and 1990, see if you identify with any of the items on the following list:
- Difficulty following conversations in a social setting.
- Listen to music, television, computer games etc. at a volume which other members of the family or friends consider uncomfortable.
- Finding loud noises, or noises of particular pitches, extremely painful.
- Difficulty following plot in television or radio shows.
If you have these symptoms, you might have developed hearing problems as a result of overly-loud BT oscillators, and could be able to make an industrial disease hearing claim against them.
Tinnitus, specifically, involves ringing in the ears or buzzing, and can be extremely debilitating. It can be constant or intermittent, and in some cases is described as more of a whistling sound. It is a natural feature of old age on occasion, but it can also be caused by excessive noise.
If your hearing has been damaged by excessive noise, it will often result in a particularly distinctive pattern on an audiogram. Therefore, having a hearing test is recommended, as it might reveal that your hearing loss was definitely caused by unnatural sources.
Am I In Time To Bring My Claim?
In the UK, there is a three year limit on making personal injury claims. This can be compared with the more famous criminal statutes of limitations in other jurisdictions.
Note that this does not mean that you have three years from the time when the injury was incurred. If that was the case, then sufferers from asbestos injuries or long-term problems (like hearing problems!) would never be able to make a claim against their employer. This would be manifestly unfair.
Instead, you have three years from what is known as the ‘date of knowledge’ of the personal injury.
The date of knowledge is a concept in personal injury law referring to the date on which you discover that an injury is related to the original accident.
This makes for a much fairer system, which allows for slowly-developing diseases and new discoveries to be taken into account.
There are two further exceptions to the three year limit within the UK:
- The time limit for children does not begin until they are eighteen.
- The time limit for patients being treated under the Mental Health Act does not begin until they have been discharged.
Of these, it is extremely unlikely that the exception for children will apply to engineers. If you or someone you know has been treated under the Mental Health Act, worked for BT, and has hearing problems, however, then they will likely have a longer period of time in which to make their oscillator hearing claim.
The Quick Answer
If you meet the following criteria:
- Have a hearing problem or tinnitus.
- Worked for BT as an engineer during the period 1960-1990.
You may have a valid hearing claim.
You are more likely to have a valid hearing claim if you meet these additional criteria:
- Can show that you only learned about your hearing problem or BT’s possible role in your hearing problem within the last three years or were being treated under the Mental Health Act when you learned of the injury and it has been less than three years since you were discharged.
- Can recollect or prove that you worked with the yellow and green tone sets.
- Worked installing or detecting faults on BT phone lines.
If you meet all or most of these criteria, it is worth getting in touch with us, free of charge. Enter your type of accident as ‘Industrial Disease’, and the rest of the form should be self-explanatory.
Any Other Questions?
If you have any other questions around BT oscillator hearing claims, please ask. We’ll do our best to answer initial questions, free, and will update our blog with any frequently asked questions.
If you’ve got hearing problems and suspect they were caused by your working conditions, it doesn’t matter if you worked for BT or not, you could still make an industrial disease claim.