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Can Airbag Inflation in an Accident Cause Hearing Loss?

October 05, 2018

An article from the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that doctors in Vermont treated a man who suffered hearing loss in a car accident. The doctors concluded that the sound of airbag inflation caused the man's hearing loss. As a result of these findings, anyone who was involved in a car accident in which airbags deployed and experiences tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or hearing loss after an accident should consult a specialist to determine the severity of the hearing loss.

Airbags must inflate in milliseconds to be effective and save lives. An airbag inflates when a sensor emits an electric signal to inflate due to a rapid deceleration caused by contact with another object. The electrical signal ignites an explosive device within the steering wheel, dashboard, or door frame. The explosion emits gas which expands and fills the airbag to capacity.

The explosion and rush of air are quite loud. However, the effect of the sound on the occupants of a car involved in a crash depends on certain variables. Doctors opined that the sound of the collision, the number of occupants in the vehicle, the size of the car, and the air flow within the car would all play a significant role in possibly causing hearing loss.

The Vermont physicians who first noticed the potential for hearing loss caused by airbag inflation in 1997 commented that their patient slid off of a snowy road and into the trees. The car hit some obstacle, and the airbag deployed. The driver reported that he was looking to the right when the airbag opened. Consequently, his left ear absorbed the noise from the airbag, which struck him on the left side of the head. The driver reported that he had trouble hearing and perceived a ringing in his ear within a very short span of time following the accident.

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Category: Auto Accidents

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.