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10 August 2020 | Comment | Article by Simon Ellis

Veteran describes the impact of tinnitus and hearing loss caused by his 22 year army career

“I can’t believe I’m in my forties and living with military deafness”

A former British Army engineer, from Aberdare in Wales, has spoken about how he developed tinnitus and hearing loss through a 22 year military career – and how regular exposure to noise from weapons, aircraft and industry has affected his day-to-day civilian life and employment.

Lee Budenis, who’s 47, agreed a financial settlement with the Ministry of Defence earlier this year after pursuing a claim for damages caused by decades of exposure to noise. It started in 1995, in the first 8 weeks of basic training, where Lee was exposed to the sound of over 57K rounds of SA 80 rifle fire. Then came years of exposure, in various instances, some where he was wearing over-the-head ear protection, but many occasions where no protection was provided – or where it couldn’t be worn, for example, because of the need to listen and communicate with others, or when under attack.

On assignment, in places like Iraq, Oman, Cyprus, and the Falklands, Lee spent years working in noisy environments – including plant rooms and hangars, spending prolonged periods by airport runways and based on construction sites, alongside heavy plant machinery and generators. In combat, he was also exposed to the noise of Rocket Propelled Grenades, small arms fire and military aircraft.

During his tour of Kuwait, in 2002, Lee first recalled experiencing temporary ringing in the ears. It tended to be apparent in the evenings, when the environment was quiet. At this time, it was intermittent and not intrusive. Then, while in Iraq in 2007, he experienced two days’ of ringing in the ears, followed by subsequent isolated incidents of Tinnitus in Iraq and Oman.

In October 2014, Lee returned from Cyprus and experienced more intense and prolonged ringing in his ears. Three months later, a Consultant diagnosed him with noise induced hearing loss and Tinnitus.

Regular army medical tests did not highlight any of Lee’s hearing issues. After his formal diagnosis, in January 2015, Lee underwent subsequent hearing tests in the forces. He says the only information communicated to him was that his hearing was the same as the last test, with no change.

Since leaving the army in 2017, Lee has been forced to pursue desk-based office jobs in quiet environments. He’s unable to pursue his civilian ambition of working in Facilities Management within a hospital or a large estate – where he’d enjoy being ‘on the ground’ managing tradesmen or construction workers.

Speaking of his quality of life now, Lee Budenis said today:

“I can’t believe I’m in my forties and living with military hearing loss. I can’t do some of the things I love and tend not to socialise much now. At family gatherings, including my daughter’s birthday party, I find it difficult to stay in the hubbub. I can’t watch the football in the pub with friends and I’ve had to convert my garage, so I can watch TV at the volume I need to hear things without disturbing my family. My life has been affected because of the noise I was exposed to, without adequate safeguards or protection – and that’s hard to live with.”

Partner at Hugh James, and Head of the Military Claims department, Simon Ellis, said today:

“Sadly, Lee’s situation is all too common. We’re seeing increasing numbers of young people living with hearing loss caused by their military careers. Sometimes, the MoD’s testing fails to highlight issues early enough, if at all. And, with people losing their jobs and having difficulty adjusting to civilian life, any financial settlement provides much needed help with the associated financial and psychological costs they have to endure.”

Author bio

Simon Ellis is a Partner with Hugh James and has worked with the firm for more than 25 years, having trained and qualified here. Simon heads up the Military Department, advising and assisting current and former military personnel with various health conditions and injuries. He specialises in claims such as hearing loss, non-freezing cold injuries, compartment syndrome and military injury cases. He is often asked to advise on more unusual claims in the military context.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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