After being rejected for employment due to fears of becoming violent, a job seeker who claimed he had a noise-sensitive hearing disorder won a discrimination case against the Health and Safety Executive. 

Matthew Jowett was given a job offer as a trainee inspector at the agency and informed its bosses that he had hyperacusis – a hearing disorder sometimes known as being noise sensitive – heard an employment tribunal in Nottingham.

Clare Owen was informed by Clare Owen that he had also identified with misophonia, a condition associated to extreme anger and disgust at hearing sound.

Ms Owen received assurances from Mr Jowett, that his condition did not usually result in him having an outwardly expressed anger and that there was no indication he would be aggressive.

However, Ms Owen and Kim McClelland wrongly assumed he would become ‘violent’ and withdrew his offer two days before he was due to start – a move which Judge Mark Butler said amounted to disability discrimination. 

The proceedings were complicated after it was revealed that Mr Jowett didn’t actually have hyperacusis. The expert audiologist, Dr Hashir Aazh, produced a report that stated that he was well below the threshold.

Jowett admitted that he didn’t suffer from the condition and the tribunal found him not disabled. However, Jowett won his disability discrimination case because HSE bosses thought he was.

Matthew Jowett was given a job offer as a trainee inspector at the agency and informed its bosses that he had hyperacusis - a hearing disorder sometimes known as being noise sensitive - heard an employment tribunal in Nottingham (file photo)

Matthew Jowett accepted a job at the agency as a trainee inspector. Jowett informed his supervisors of hyperacusis. This is a disorder that can cause hearing problems such as noise sensitive. Jowett also attended an employment tribunal in Nottingham.

A tribunal was informed that Mr Jowett now lives in France and has stopped going to cinemas or theatres because he felt the noise from audiences made it too loud. 

Also, he claimed that background music in restaurants ruin eating out is disturbing him. He said slamming the doors and beeping washing machines are his triggers, as well as complaining about music from an ice cream van.  

Jowett was a Nottingham resident who said that he received a hyperacusis diagnosis as a teenager. He also described his noise sensitivities.

“My hearing sensitivity” is something that many will recognize, he said. People will notice that clicking pens, intrusive texts alerts and other distractions can interfere with their ability to focus and “zone out”.

“In my situation, the sensitivity I experience is acuter, however it can be managed. Some noises could disrupt my concentration when I return to the office and am trying to create reports or letters.

“It impacts what kind of accommodation I’m able to stay in. The audience can be too noisy and it affects your ability to enjoy the theater or cinema.

The tribunal concluded Mr Jowett was not disabled - yet he still won his disability discrimination claim because HSE bosses believed he was at the time (file photo)

He was not found disabled, but he had his disability discrimination case won by HSE bosses (file photo). 

What’s the difference between hyperacusis or misophonia

Hyperacusis refers to a condition where everyday sounds are louder than necessary.

The sounds that can be heard by those with the condition include barking dogs and car engines, as well as sounds like someone chewing, vacuuming, or jingling coins.

This can happen to one or both ears, at any time.

Hyperacusis may be treated if caused by a condition such as migraines. If there is no clear cause of hyperacusis, sound therapy or cognitive behavioural therapy can be used. 

Selective Sound Sensitivity (also known as Misophonia) is a form of emotional response that can be triggered by certain sounds.

The three main emotional reactions are: anger (predominantly), disgust, anxiety.

From childhood to adulthood, people suffering from the condition can be referred.

Those with the condition should talk to their GP. Professional support may also be available.

Source: NHS and British Tinnitus Association

“It can impact my enjoyment of dining out, particularly with piped-muzak. I will ask a friend to lower the volume if they are speaking.

According to a tribunal report, “Mr Jowett” also mentioned a vacation he had for three weeks. He was tired from not sleeping enough because the door outside of his hotel room slammed very loudly every night.

“On his first visit to the National Theatre, he said that his experience was marred with teenagers playing on their phones and eating crisps. He decided not to go back.

“He claims that this is why he doesn’t go to the movies as often, but he admitted to it in cross-examination. He has also attended concerts and went to the theatre.

“He also notes how, in two of his Nottingham apartments, he was constantly disturbed by the slamming of doors from neighbours and tenants.

He also said that the washing machine of a friend causes him to be affected.

‘Finally, he mentions a French supermarket where he lives that had two music channels. He found it “a bit annoying” as he tried to focus on his purchases.

Jowett stated that it was because of students knocking on the doors, which made it difficult for him to focus at university thirty years ago. 

Judge Butler stated that Mc McClelland and Ms Owen, both of whom do not have medical degrees, assumed that Mc McClelland was ineligible for this role due to a predisposition toward violence.  

Judge Butler described his confusion over the fact that he didn’t actually suffer from misophonia and hyperacusis as “confusing.”

Jowett, he claimed was the ‘unwittingly author of his own misery’ and made claims about Jowett’s noise sensitivities to HSE.

Later, compensation will be paid to him. Others claims for discrimination or unfair dismissal were also dismissed.