A battle over a faulty headset has escalated from a minor workplace incident to a compensation case before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Australia.

When the Department of Human Services installed a new telephone system in 2013, a public servant claimed the headset cause her hearing loss and unbearable pain.

A public servant has lost a compensation bid after blaming a faulty headset for injury. A public servant has lost a compensation bid after blaming a faulty headset for injury.  Photo: istock

“Heads up my phone is so bad that is not even word for it,” she wrote to her team leader after using the headset.

She was told to “get off the phone” but complained of tinnitus symptoms keeping her awake at night. Despite the injury, she continued to work.

After seeing a local doctor, she unsuccessfully lodged a claim with Comcare and was rejected on appeal. She took the matter to the tribunal and represented herself.  

The tribunal heard evidence from consultant otolaryngologist Robin Hooper, who said the public servant complained of constant white noise and a pulsing sensation.


“There is no evidence that she has sustained significant noise exposure during this employment period to account for her work-related tinnitus,” she told the tribunal.

“I find it difficult to explain that her symptom of ‘tinnitus’ is related to the low-grade acoustic instance.”

The woman had also reported a history of ear and chest infections and a case of pneumonia to the tribunal.

“I note that her mother has hearing aids although she does not currently have tinnitus,” Dr Hooper said.  “This family history of hearing loss could possibly be relevant in her symptom of tinnitus.”

The tribunal found the public servant’s injury was only temporary, could not be categorically linked to her employment and was most likely due to a case of the flu. 

Faulty headset no cause for compensation, public servant told

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