Did a Crying Baby Cause Jean Barnard's Hearing Loss?

Woman claims a child's scream made her lose her hearing.

ByABC News
July 26, 2010, 4:45 PM

July 27, 2010 — -- A screaming child's high-pitched squeals echoing through an airplane cabin was more than just an annoyance for one Florida woman.

A child's shriek was so loud on one Qantas Airlines flight that passenger Jean Barnard, 67, claimed that it left her partially deaf. She later filed a civil complaint against the airline for the physical and emotional damage she sustained from the incident.

Barnard's suit eventually led to a settlement, the details of which have been sealed and remain confidential.

In her deposition to a Los Angeles district court last April, Barnard claimed that she was boarding a flight in Alice Springs, Australia, in January 2009 when she said a child "let loose a shriek" about "four inches" from her face.

"Blood instantaneously shot into the back of my head," said Barnard, who described the pain as "excruciating."

Barnard was removed from the airplane before takeoff and treated at a nearby hospital. According to the complaint she filed, the child's scream caused her "significant personal injuries," including sudden "sensio-neural hearing loss" and was unable to work.

In a response to Barnard's complaint, Qantas Airlines argued in court that the airline was not responsible for a "small child's random, impulsive scream" as it is not an "unexpected or unusual event" and is not "related in any way to the operation of the aircraft."

The airline also claimed that Barnard suffered the injuries dues to her own "internal infirmities" and not from the child's scream at all, suggesting that Barnard had hearing problems prior to the incident aboard the aircraft.

Barnard and Qantas reached a confidential agreement out of court this month, and a lawyer for Barnard would not discuss the case further.

Qantas also declined to comment on the incident.

As for the danger a screaming child could pose to a fellow passenger, medical professionals told ABCNews.com that the type of trauma Barnard described is extremely uncommon.