The Case of the Mysterious Exploding Capacitors

noise-induced hearing loss

The claimant in a claim for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) was involved in the inspection and testing of photographic lighting equipment manufactured by the defendant; he alleged that he was regularly exposed to noise when capacitors in the equipment under test “exploded” within a few inches of his ear.

A Finch acoustic engineering expert was instructed by the parties to advise the Court on the likely noise exposure. This was an unusual case, and no published information could be found on the likely levels of noise produced by exploding electronic components.

Finch’s expert carried out acoustic tests in safe conditions, by arrangement with the Health and Safety Laboratory, Buxton, during which large oil-filled electrolytic capacitors of the relevant type were placed in a test cell and tested to destruction by applying an over-voltage. From these tests, the expert calculated the daily personal noise exposure level (LEPd) and the instantaneous peak sound pressure levels to which the claimant would have been exposed.