Like all medical practitioners, audiologists carry a duty of care to their patients that, if breached, can constitute medical negligence.

Our hearing can be essential to the relationships we make both at work and in our personal lives. Damage to our capacity for hearing can have huge consequences on our ability to communicate with others.

Audiology negligence can be hugely damaging for adults and especially for children, whose language development can be stunted by early experiences with hearing loss.

If you have been a victim of hearing loss due to Medical Negligence by the HSE, make sure to get in touch with a Medical Negligence Solicitor who can handle your case.

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When Can Medical Negligence Result in Hearing Loss?

Medical practitioners can be held responsible for hearing loss if their actions or inactions inflict damage on a patient’s hearing, or their treatment fails to properly deal with a patient’s condition. 

Different types of medical ailments can have an impact on your hearing – a failure to correctly identify and treat certain conditions can lead to hearing loss and may be considered malpractice.

Substandard care can manifest itself in a number of ways – some examples of hearing loss incidents that can constitute medical negligence include:

  1. Failure to diagnose and treat meningitis: Meningitis can cause sensorineural hearing loss – in fact, deafness is the most common after-effect of bacterial meningitis. If a practitioner fails to identify meningitis in a patient, a delay in treatment could cause significant damage to a patient’s hearing over time. The condition requires an immediate course of antibiotics and, upon discharge, a patient who has suffered with meningitis should be offered a hearing test so as to monitor any negative developments.
  2. Failure to diagnose and treat cholesteatoma: A cholesteatoma is an unnatural group of skin cells or skin cyst that forms inside of your ear. Without treatment, it can impose damage on the structures inside the ear that allow us to hear and maintain balance, and potentially lead to infection. Cholesteatomas usually require surgical treatment which presents certain risks. If it is not removed completely however, the cholesteatoma will grow back. Medical negligence claims for cholesteatomas can often revolve around failed or delayed diagnoses or surgical errors.
  3. Failure to diagnose and treat glue ear: Glue ear occurs when the central, empty part of the ear canal behind the eardrum fills up with fluid. It can often cause partial deafness and extreme cases can lead to permanent hearing loss. A delayed diagnosis can provide the basis for a medical negligence claim. 
  4. Failure to diagnose and treat a perforated eardrum: Perforated eardrums occur when there is a hole or tear in the eardrum. It can usually heal naturally in a few weeks, but surgery can sometimes be required. If it is not properly conducted, a patient may suffer hearing loss. They must also be advised in advance of any operation of the risks associated with the surgery.
  5. Antibiotics not properly administered: Antibiotics are often crucial in combatting bacterial infections, but some can carry their own side effects and potentially be detrimental to a patient’s hearing capabilities. Gentamicin can, on occasion, be hugely damaging on the auditory system and care must be taken when prescribing it to adults and children.

Symptoms of Hearing Loss

If you are unsure as to whether your auditory system has been damaged, some of the examples below may indicate that you have suffered hearing loss in some capacity:

  • Trouble hearing other people in conversation and misunderstanding them.
  • Particular trouble deciphering conversations in busier, noisier settings.
  • Trouble hearing people speak over the phone.
  • Suffering from stress and fatigue in conversation as a result of higher concentration levels in attempting to hear.
  • Often asking people to repeat what they say.
  • Turning the volume up to an abnormal level on the TV or through headphones.
  • Tinnitus.

If you feel as though your hearing has gotten worse, it is important to make contact with your GP for advice on your situation.

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What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a condition that makes people susceptible to hearing the noises that come from inside their body alongside the regular, external noises that most people experience. 

It is usually referred to as a ringing in the ears although tinnitus can also be experienced as a buzz, hum, grind, hiss or whistle. 

In many cases, tinnitus can improve slowly over time although obviously, if you experience the condition and continue to be exposed to excessive noise, it can get worse. 

When it gets more serious, tinnitus can be a permanent condition that significantly impairs a worker’s hearing capabilities. If you think you are suffering with tinnitus, it is important to get in touch with your GP for medical advice.

Hearing Loss in Children

Children who require different kinds of medication in their infancy may be more susceptible to hearing loss if their treatment is not properly conducted. 

Acquired hearing loss in children can be hugely impactful on their early development and may affect their social and communicatory skills.  

Issues occasionally experienced by children that suffer hearing loss include a slower development in their vocabulary, speech impairment, a delayed comprehension of sentence and conversation structure and a difficulty in social functioning. 

Options to combat this include hearing aids, implants, speech and language therapy and assistive listening devices, all of which can be a major help if correctly managed.  

Hearing loss can also be congenital, meaning it is present at birth and is usually the result of a genetic condition or an issue involving an infection during pregnancy. 

The HSE National Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Programme ensures that newborn babies receive a hearing loss screening within the first month of their lives. 

If problems with an infant’s hearing are discovered at that stage, it is vital that medical practitioners are able to intervene and begin a course of treatment. 

Understandably, this process is delicate and doctors carry a duty of care to the children involved to protect them from further damage. 

Am I Entitled to Compensation for My Hearing Loss?

Though the vast majority of auditory healthcare in Ireland is at a very high level, and legal cases in the area are relatively uncommon, it is important that victims of medical negligence are provided with compensation for any hearing loss they suffer.

Compensation may not repair the damage your auditory system has taken, but it can help cover the costs of any future treatment you require, including:

  • Necessary speech and language therapy.
  • The provision of hearing implants and associated equipment.
  • High quality hearing aids to help combat damaged hearing.
  • Machinery or appliances needed at home to help with day-to-day living.

Claiming Compensation for Occupational Hearing Loss in Ireland

If you feel as though you are the victim of hearing loss negligence, it may be helpful to make contact with a Medical Negligence Solicitor for advice on your situation.

At Hughes & Associates, our team can offer experience and knowledge on all claims relating to medical negligence. We are available to assess your case and advise you on whether there are grounds for a compensation claim.

Based in Dublin and serving claimants living in Ireland, feel free to contact us with enquiries at info@hughessolicitors.ie or by phoning us on +353 1 891 0020.

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