Deafness, hearing loss, or hearing impairment is the total or partial inability to hear in one or both ears. Hearing impairment can range from mild to profound – a profoundly deaf person cannot hear any sound at all. According to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders, around 15 percent of adults in the United States have some level of hearing loss.
People may be deaf for any number of causes: birth defects, disease, or accidents and injuries. Unfortunately, hearing loss after an accident is a common result of many situations caused by other people’s negligence, including car accidents and slip and fall accidents, or any event that leads to a powerful blow to the side of the head or traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Airbags save lives in many car accidents, because they inflate instantaneously to protect occupants in the front seats from injury. To do this, they use a tiny explosive. Unfortunately, the sound of this explosion is sometimes higher than 170 decibels. That’s louder than a jet engine or a shotgun blast, and only a bit quieter than a rocket.
This can cause severe damage to a person’s ear, which may result in one or more hearing impairment issues.
Conductive Hearing Loss
The ear is made up of three parts: the outer ear, which includes your earlobe and ear canal, the middle ear, and the inner ear.
The membrane that separates the middle ear from the outer ear is the eardrum. Inside the middle ear are tiny bones called the incus, malleus, and stapes, also known as the middle ear ossicles. These are the smallest bones in your body – you may have heard them called the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup. When the eardrum vibrates in response to sound, these bones vibrate to transfer sound to the cochlea, which is inside the inner ear.
The impact of the airbag could rupture the eardrum or damage these bones, which could lead to conductive hearing loss, which may be corrected by surgery, or assisted with certain types of hearing aids.
Tinnitus is a form of damage to your inner ear, a labyrinth of tubes lined by tiny hair-like cells called cilia. A common cause of tinnitus is damage to the cilia in the cochlea.
If you’ve ever left a concert or nightclub with your ears still ringing afterwards, you’ve had tinnitus. Usually it goes away after a while. When an airbag deploys, it can cause similar symptoms, but because it is much louder, there is a greater risk that it will become a permanent condition. People with tinnitus spend the rest of their lives with their ears ringing like that morning after loud rock concert.
Part of the cochlea is a set of tubes called semicircular canals which control balance and equilibrium. When you damage the semicircular canals, you can contract a type of vertigo known as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This may be described as brief episodes of mild to intense dizziness, usually when there is a change in the position of your head, such as standing up, lying down, or rolling over in bed. This could result in feelings of nausea or motion sickness.
Permanent Hearing Loss
The occupants in a car where an airbag deployed may suffer from temporal bone fractures, and injury to the inner ear, which can cause sensorineural hearing loss. Sometimes emergency surgery can help improve a person’s chance of hearing, but most of the time, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent.
Losing any amount of hearing will affect the way you hear and understand people. Hearing loss can have a devastating effect on your quality of life and physical well-being, including irritability, fatigue, depression, withdrawal, loneliness, reduced alertness, reduced earning capacity, and diminished overall health.
Surprisingly, not all insurance plans cover the whole cost of hearing aids, if they are covered at all. The average hearing aid is between $2000 – $7000. If you require surgery, your medical costs could be very high, especially if you have a high deductible plan.
If you or a loved one has suffered a hearing loss after an accident that was caused by someone else, visit your doctor for a hearing test as soon as possible. If you are diagnosed with a hearing impairment, you deserve compensation to help with the costs of treatment and adjusting to your new life.
You will also need an attorney with experience navigating the insurance system to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Use our form below to schedule your free consultation and learn about your rights.