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03 May 2012

Time runs out on BT engineers to claim compensation for hearing loss and Tinnitus from using tone sets (Oscillators) provided by BT- Act Quickly

Trevor Sterling

By Trevor SterlingPrincipal Lawyer & National Business Development (Health & Social Care)

In 2010 BT admitted that many of their engineers were negligently exposed to excessive levels of noise during their employment with BT, through the use of tone sets. The tone sets (also known as Oscillators) were used to install lines in BT’s networks, the equipment was commonly used by Apprentice Engineers, Cable Jointers, Line Maintenance Engineers and Technicians.

Make contact quickly before the limitation period ends

BT Engineers are encouraged to contact Russell Jones & Walker, Part of Slater & Gordon Lawyers if they are suffering from hearing loss and/or tinnitus and used oscillator and amplifier tone sets supplied by BT, as they may be entitled to compensation and insurance payments. For those who are members of a union you can contact them if not you can contact us and we will be able to assist. These cases will be undertaken on a no win no fee basis so there will be no cost to you. Our fees are not paid by you or from your compensation they are recovered by third party insurance.

Currently BT have accepted they were negligent

BT accept that they were negligent in their position as a trusted employer and say the green and yellow tone sets were not safe to use; the noise that was amplified into the ear piece was at such a volume and pitch that it exceeded the relevant health and safety regulations. The green and yellow tone sets were predominately used during the 1960’s through to the 1980’s; the result has been that many Engineers now have hearing loss.

Engineers rightfully assumed that the use of this equipment was safe and carried out their work in a trusting fashion; meaning that they were innocently exposed to excessive noise. Because noise exposure affects individuals at varying degrees it may be the case that even irregular use with the tone sets has left a residual effect on the person’s hearing.

Symptoms which BT Engineers have experienced following the use of tone sets (Oscillators) 

Noise damage affects the high frequency range of hearing and manifests in the inner ear, harming the minute hairs contained within the cochlear which are responsible for transferring sound to the nerve endings. It is typically referred to as sensori-neural hearing loss. It may be difficult for individuals to distinguish whether they are suffering with hearing loss at high frequencies as opposed to other frequencies, however noise induced hearing loss generally produces a typical pattern on an Audiogram therefore it is always worthwhile checking to enable a diagnosis to be made.

Many Engineers also suffer with tinnitus, this generally manifests as a constant or intermittent noise in one or both ears and can be likened to a whistle or buzzing sound. Tinnitus is a condition that varies in severity for which unfortunately there is no cure; it is often the case that treatment comes in the form of distraction techniques. Tinnitus is known to be a naturally occurring phenomenon, however, where there is the presence of noise induced hearing loss then it may be associated with noise exposure.

How does this affect you?

Common problems include;

•    Having television on at a level which is uncomfortable for other members of the family.
•    Regularly having to ask people to repeat what they are saying.
•    Difficulty following conversation in a social setting particularly when there is background noise
•    Noises in the ear such as ringing or buzzing
•    Finding loud sounds very uncomfortable

Why would I make a claim for compensation for my injury from using tone sets (Oscillators)?

The noise exposure through the use of the tone sets was unwitting; however, the subsequent result is that Engineers have now been left with permanent and irreparable hearing loss/tinnitus due to a significant failure on BT’s part. Aids are available on the NHS however; these are cosmetically inferior to private hearing aids, the cost of which can be paid for through an insurance claim. In addition other hearing technologies may be funded as well as therapy in relation to Tinnitus.
Whilst Insurance payments are currently being made where it can be established that any hearing loss/tinnitus is attributable to the negligent exposure in respect of the green/yellow tone sets, there is a 3 year time limit which runs from the date of knowledge that any hearing loss/tinnitus may have been caused by work.

BT have recently announced that the amnesty in relation to the limitation period will be withdrawn as from January 2013 therefore it is vital that any potential claim be investigated and made without delay otherwise it may be argued that any claim is out of time.

If you feel you may have a claim you should contact Russell Jones & Walker, Part of Slater & Gordon Lawyers free on 0800 916 9046 or e-mail Trevor Sterling the Principal Lawyer dealing with these cases on You will need to have a simple hearing test along with quick chat about basic work and noise exposure history. This is usually enough information at the outset for us to determine whether there is a potential claim for compensation.