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Compensation claim news 26/02/2007

Research reveals car accident airbag danger

A new type of car accident compensation claim could be on the horizon after recent research revealed that airbags could lead to permanent hearing loss.

The revelation came to light at a US conference and may mean that car manufacturers will find themselves on the receiving end of costly personal injury claims for car accident compensation from road users who have found their hearing damaged by airbags.

Doctor Richard Price, a Maryland noise hazard consultant, is the man who brought the issue to the consciousness of other noise experts when he revealed his findings at an American National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) conference.

He shocked attendees at the convention by revealing that as many as 17% of people exposed to deploying airbags were likely to find their hearing permanently damaged, if not ruined, by the impulse noise created when the bag inflates.

Seventeen percent of those subjected to the deployment of an airbag in a road accident is an enormous number and car designers will now be forced to consider new and alternative safety methods.

To prevent noise-induced hearing loss and the car accident compensation claims that will surely be made by deafened motorists, the world's car manufacturers are now thought to be investigating ways of making airbag deployment less damaging.

The problem is that an airbag is deployed using a tiny explosive device. Such a device is needed because the bag has to inflate in the tiny amount of time it takes between the initial car crash impact and the moment the driver's head would otherwise strike the steering wheel.

An explosion is currently the only guaranteed way to inflate the bag in such a short space of time, but with the threat of potential car accident compensation claims from hearing-damaged motorists looming, other methods are currently being investigated.

Brian Fligor, the NHCA Director of Education, praised Dr Price's research and said, "We often consider only the benefits of safety technology, rather than the unfortunate potential side effects.

"This type of study highlights how common everyday occurrences present a very real hazard to our hearing."

In addition to discovering the high proportion of people damaged by their airbags, Dr Price's study also found that whether the car windows were up or down had an effect on the hearing of the person inside the vehicle.

He concluded that windows that were rolled down are more likely to result in hearing loss due to the low pressure of the interior of the car. In contrast, having the windows rolled up results in higher pressure, which actually strengthens the ear and so makes damage to hearing less likely.

Further research into hearing damage caused by deploying airbags is set to be undertaken in the near future and both vehicle manufacturers and car accident compensation solicitors will be waiting keenly for the results.

Despite the seemingly bad news revealed in Price's study, the man himself points out the positives, saying, "The good news is almost all of this hearing loss is preventable.

"Wearing hearing protection, designing equipment better, and being aware of the problem can all contribute to preservation of hearing, our very precious resource."

For more information about deafness and noise-induced hearing loss, go to www.deafnessresearch.org.uk.