David Smith is battling ACC for his sanity after a treatment which he says injured his neck and left him with a continuous, high-frequency whining in his ears.

"It has been psychologically devastating," Mr Smith said yesterday of his tinnitus, a poorly understood condition in which the noise is produced by something in the head rather than external sound waves.

The 54-year-old from Levin is on an invalid's benefit, unable to work, and takes a sedative drug to help him sleep and cope with the anxiety caused by the intolerable noise.

ACC says Mr Smith's claim was assessed by a neurologist and an ear-nose-throat specialist/head and neck surgeon, who found no evidence he suffered an injury as a result of chiropractic treatment in October 2006.


Mr Smith had gone to a chiropractor for pain treatment and his neck was manipulated.

"Within 30 minutes I got this whining in my head and I've had it since then."

He returned and the chiropractor manipulated his neck again.

When the chiropractor asked if he had had tinnitus before, he didn't answer, not then knowing the word's meaning.

He was asked if he had ever heard whining, which he said he had, meaning he had heard objects like machines. On an ACC form, the chiropractor wrote that Mr Smith had suffered an exacerbation of tinnitus.

Mr Smith said he signed, not realising then that exacerbation meant a worsening, implying he had had it before the neck treatments.

ACC declined his claim on grounds the tinnitus was a pre-existing condition. Mr Smith argues his tinnitus was caused by a treatment injury - the neck manipulation.

He summarised the findings of a GP, two audiologists and two ear-nose-and-throat specialists as concluding that his neck had been injured, that this had caused tinnitus, and - apart from the whining - his hearing was in good order.

Tinnitus does not usually occur without hearing loss.

Having failed in review hearings, he is planning a district court appeal. He has received cognitive behaviour therapy, funded by a primary health organisation, and paid for acupuncture.

These were the kinds of treatments he hoped ACC would finance.

The ACC Files
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