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Inverness woman awarded almost £250,000 after suffering hearing loss while working for tanning salon

By Ali Morrison

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All Scotland Personal Injury Court.
All Scotland Personal Injury Court.

An Inverness woman has been awarded almost a quarter of a million pounds to pay for a lifetime supply of hearing aids after tanning salon bosses failed to protect her from contracting tinnitus.

Haesel McDonald (24) was forced to quit a promising dance career after she sustained serious hearing loss whilst working at the Indigo Sun tanning salon in Dundee’s Strathmartine Road .

Her ears were permanently damaged after a fire alarm at the premises started ringing on December 12, 2015 and her managers were unable to turn the device off.

Bosses at the shop told Ms McDonald to stay at her post and she was scared she would lose her job if she did not follow their order.

Meanwhile, managers could only stop the ringing noise by applying tape to the device which only muffled the piercing sound.

The alarm started ringing when she started her shift at 8.50am and continued to sound until 12.55pm.

Doctors told Ms McDonald her hearing was permanently damaged and she would have to use hearing aids for the rest of her life.

The standard NHS models keep slipping out of her ears and the nature of her job requires her to buy models which cost around £3999 and need to be replaced every three years.

This prompted her to instruct lawyers to raise an action against Indigo Sun Retail Limited at the All Scotland Sheriff Personal Injury Court in Edinburgh.

They argued that she was entitled to compensation from the firm.

In a written judgment published Sheriff John Mundy agreed with submissions made by her lawyers concluding the firm didn’t do enough to protect her hearing.

As well as £214,977 for the hearing aids, Sheriff Mundy also ordered the company to pay Ms McDonald a further £26,300 compensation for the pain and injury she suffered.

Explaining his decision, Sheriff Mundy wrote: “The pursuer graduated from college with first class honours in contemporary dance.

“However, due to her hearing impairment the pursuer has lost confidence and feels unable to pursue a career in dance.

“Notwithstanding her graduation, she found completing her qualification to be difficult.

“She has now begun a college course leading to an HND in health and fitness.

“Her future career will involve, like dance, vigorous physical activity. Her hearing aids have a tendency to flip or fall out during such activity.

“Further, the said private hearing aids that are appropriate for day to day activities would also fall out during such activity.

“In light of the activities involved in her future career, and to engage in dance, the pursuer will require to purchase private hearing aids at an approximate cost of £3999 (plus accessories) which would require to be replaced every three years.

“In all the circumstances I am satisfied as a matter of fact that a legitimate inference can be drawn that the pursuer’s exposure to noise on December 12, 2015 was the cause of her hearing loss and tinnitus and not merely the occasion for it.”

The judgment tells of how Ms McDonald was studying contemporary dance at Dundee and Angus College at the time of the incident.

Her job at the tanning salon involved serving customers, cleaning and banking the takings.

Sheriff Mundy said she described the noise of the ringing as being “excessively loud” and “painful to her ears”.

After around five to 10 minutes of it going off, she phoned her manager, Steven Campbell, looking for help.

She made it clear how loud the noise was and Sheriff Mundy said it would have been apparent to Mr Campbell that she was distressed.

But Mr Campbell told her to stay at her post and she was afraid she would lose her job if she left the shop.

The court heard the noise continued for another two hours until Mr Campbell arrived and put tape over two alarms in the shop.

He said that an engineer would be coming to turn the alarm off and that she should stay in the shop.

However, the alarm kept ringing and the sound was only muffled.

Doctors later found that Ms McDonald had suffered permanent hearing damage, also concluding that her hearing would deteriorate with age.

Her lawyers told Sheriff Mundy that NHS hearing aids didn’t allow her to go back to her old routine.

He wrote: “The pursuer’s evidence was, it was submitted, that she suffers difficulties with the hearing aids she presently has. Apart from being generally uncomfortable, they do not differentiate between speech and background noise.

“They amplify all noise, not just what she wants to hear. She hears her hair brushing against them. Despite wearing them, she has difficulties in busy environments or in environments with background music such as gyms where she intends to work after she finishes her current studies.”

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