Workplace noise exposure results in the common injury of hearing loss. Noise from things such as music, crowds, loud machinery and other high-volume exposures cause more than forty percent of all hearing loss incidents. In more than eighty percent of those losses, it is due to the workplace. The World Health Organization estimates more than thirty million workers are affected by this injury.
The most effective treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids, but most health plans do not cover these devices. Medicare is one of those that does not cover the cost of hearing aids along with most private and public insurance companies. This lack of coverage is an unfortunate scenario, as technology has advanced in the hearing aid industry by designing digitally programmable hearing aids to amplify voices while suppressing background noise. If you have suffered hearing loss from your workplace noise levels, contact a worker’s compensation attorney to find out how you can receive compensation.
How to Know if You are Suffering from Hearing Loss
Most often hearing loss is a gradual event and you may not even realize yours is diminishing. Others around you may notice it sooner as you continuously ask ‘what’ or miss things being said to you. Other signs you are losing your hearing include:
- You find yourself adjusting the TV volume louder
- You have to sit in front of meetings or in the church as you can no longer hear what is being said from further back in a room
- You experience difficulty understanding women and young children as their speech patterns are much softer and quieter
- You continuously experience a ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
- You are finding it hard to understand what others are saying when you are in a group situation
- You find yourself asking those around you to repeat what they've said
- You find it is a struggle to determine where sounds are coming from
- You cannot understand what someone is telling you from another room
- You find yourself avoiding gatherings or family get-togethers because it is just too difficult to understand what others are saying
- Others are telling you that your hearing is getting bad
To determine the exact degree of your hearing loss, you need to have your hearing evaluated by a licensed professional. It is overwhelming and very frustrating to lose your hearing, and you begin to feel left out of a lot of life’s events. This loss is a common one at many workplace locations due to the noise levels necessary to perform a variety of operations. Hearing loss can also occur from an injury to your head or ear during work. Workers’ compensation benefits should be helping you through this loss.
Hearing Loss Due to Work Environments
If you are subjected to high levels of noise continuously at your workplace; chances are you will experience some degree of hearing loss. If your employer is not providing the proper hearing protection, you will suffer even more significant damage. The CDC (Center for Disease and Control) found hearing loss is the third most common chronic condition in people as they age and the most common work-related injury. The loss of hearing affects more than ten percent of the working population and of those, it is estimated more than twenty-four percent are caused by the exposure of loud noises on the job.
Noise levels are measured by decibels and any sound measuring more than 85 decibels is considered hazardous to the health of your ears. Other exposures in the workplace can also affect your hearing. Excess carbon dioxide of mercury in the air where you work could affect your ability to hear normally. The estimates are that more than twenty-two million workers in the United States are exposed to hazardous chemical levels in their working environment that will affect their hearing.
It would be in the best interest of a business to keep data on how noise levels impact many of their workers in their organization. Comparing that data to other work environments in the same industry would allow them to determine how serious their problems are, or it could show how well they are managing their noise levels. Once data is analyzed, the companies could then make the necessary precautions to lessen the noise level impact on employees. This precaution could help them reduce workers’ compensation claims for hearing loss as well.
Workers’ compensation benefits are available for hearing loss due to working in high noise levels or exposure to dangerous chemicals. The benefits will help to pay bills and other living expenses if the loss prevents you from working. To determine what amounts of benefits you are entitled to under this program, contact a worker's compensation attorney.
What Factors Contribute to Hearing Loss
Workplace environments impact an employee’s hearing loss. The mining sector creates the highest level of noise levels followed by the manufacturing and construction industries. The Department of Labor estimates more than $240 million is spent every year on workers’ compensation due to hearing loss disabilities. In an effort to reduce those amounts, it launched a project called ‘Hear and Now’ in 2016 in an effort to solicit innovative solutions to alert workers of hazardous noise levels.
Critics of this effort stated there is already technology in place to reduce hearing injuries, and stated what is needed is more sound-protection equipment put into place at lower exposure levels in the workplace. These same critics say OSHA's regulations are outdated and need to be reviewed as their data does not include noise exposure that occurs beyond the workplace that affects hearing loss. When workers are already suffering from too high noise levels in the workplace environments such as sporting venues, restaurants, or other loud social events, increase the damages occurring at their job.
OSHA will be checking regulations at construction sites and determining whether there needs to be more stringent protection for workers as this industry has often been allowed to separate noise-related rules. They will also be ensuring companies are following rules that are in place. It is expected the rules will be updated as most of them on file date back to the 1970s.
Employers also have to be more aware of the risks and make sure their employees are educated on the dangers of hearing loss on the workplace. It is noted some employees choose not to wear hearing protection even when provided by their employer. Many employees have the misconception that if they are not operating the machine, they do not need protection, when in fact it affects their hearing by just being in the area.
A professor at Stanford University discovered workplace noise levels determined to be in the moderate level range inflicted more hearing loss among employees than those working in high-noise level environments. The high-noise work environments showed more employees wore the proper protection for their ears, while moderate-level environments had employees neglecting to wear the protection.
Employees should be educated on the importance of wearing proper protection for their hearing. If not aware of the complications, it is too easy for them to remove the gear when not continuously supervised. It is also possible to use warning lights that measure noise levels. When these lights flash a designated color, employees are warned the noise levels have reached a dangerous level.
Occupational Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Workers’ compensation has given the injury category of losing one’s ability to hear, its own title- Occupation Noise-Induced Hearing Loss. You might think most claims filed for workers’ compensation are for falls, burns, heavy equipment injuries or even auto accidents, but the most common work-related injury in the U.S. is Occupational Noise-Induced Hearing Loss. While there have been laws put into place to protect your hearing, there are still approximately 31 million people in the United States who have significant hearing loss which resulted by where they work.
Another sad fact related to hearing loss is that many times people associate it with their age rather than with where they work or have worked. After retirement, a person will begin to notice a significant loss of hearing or they may have been aware of it earlier, but they do not realize it is primarily due to the work environments they have been in for years. Hearing loss is a real injury and can make you eligible for compensation which is not widely known by employees.
How Can You File a Workers’ Compensation Claim for Hearing Loss?
Many people feel as though they cannot file workers’ compensation claims for hearing loss as there is no proof of what their hearing quality was before they began working. The fact behind this myth is you can file a workers’ compensation claim without a before and after audiogram and still have a valid claim.
An audiometric test creates a graph to show the frequencies you are able to hear at certain volume levels. If you’ve suffered noise trauma, you will have lost your ability to hear high frequencies in specific ranges. The ranges affected are between 3,000 and 6,000 hertz. Hearing returns at about 8,000 hertz and the loss is described as a hillside. When your hearing is healthy, it will drop much like jumping from a cliff as the frequency gets higher.
An audiogram for natural hearing loss, such as when you age, is a flat line and shows a loss at all frequency levels. Age-related hearing loss may also show a congenital hearing loss as well. Workers’ compensation experts know how to look at an audiogram and determine if your hearing loss is a result of work-related noise levels or a symptom of aging. These experts can decide if you are suffering from Occupational Noise-Induced Hearing Loss and know if your claim should be accepted or denied.
How do You Determine Where Exposure Occurred and the Cause of Hearing Loss?
Time is critical when filing a workers’ compensation claim, as it must be filed within one year from the time you discover an on the job injury. Your clock will be running on your claim the first time you are tested. When you go to a health professional to have your hearing loss tested, and they ask what type of work you did and then determine your loss is due to that occupation, you must act promptly.
If it is suspected your hearing loss is a result of prolonged exposure to loud noises where you work or have worked, it is possible to file for and receive workers’ compensation. There are many workers exposed to loud industrial noises which have suffered from hearing loss. Workers’ compensation for this loss is public policy and if you feel you have experienced a loss, contact a workers’ compensation attorney to learn about the benefits you should be receiving.
Not all hearing loss conditions are permanent, but if you do not have your loss treated, it could mean your loss is for good. A lot of workers report their loss of hearing as an occupational disease, and it is due to a high-level noise environment on the job. Loud sounds can only be tolerated by the human ear up to certain decibels. If you’ve worked or are working in a noisy workplace, know the measurement of decibels you are exposed to, as this can be the cause of your hearing loss.
Sounds are measured in decibels, and louder sounds mean higher decibels. If you work in environments where sound reaches over 80 decibels, you have the potential of permanently damaging your inner ear which results in permanent hearing loss. These are some examples of decibel ranges:
- A motorcycle or truck that is five yards away from you will emit 90 decibels
- A jackhammer that is three feet away from you will emit 120 decibels
- If you are within 100 feet of an airplane, it is emitting 130 decibels
These examples are typical distances a person walking past one of these noises will be exposed to; however, workers in high-level noise environments work much closer to the sounds and sustain substantial damage to their ears.
Prevention and early detection are essential when dealing with hearing loss. If you know, the sounds you are being exposed to on the job are too high, have your hearing checked immediately and regularly to monitor any loss. Occupations that place you at risk for hearing loss include; mining, airline ground maintenance, construction, manufacturing, carpentry, automotive/racing/testing/motorcycle manufacturing, waitressing, bouncing in a nightclub or bartending in a nightclub or other high-level noise environment.
How a Hearing Loss Claim is Handled by Workers’ Compensation
The insurance company handling your worker's compensation claim for hearing loss will conduct a detailed review of your medical records relating to your hearing. What they will want to see is the results of your audiogram. This test will let the work comp adjuster know if your hearing loss is a work-related injury, genetic issue, or age-related.
The adjuster may also request a test by an otolaryngologist to find out if your hearing loss is due to perceptive loss a conductive loss or a combination of both. Conductive loss is caused by a defect in your middle ear, while a perceptive loss can be linked to loud noises in the workplace. If your test proves perceptive loss, your workers’ comp claim will continue through the process.
The adjuster from workers’ comp is going to prevail on the otolaryngologist’s test to determine your amount of hearing loss connected to your work environment.
There is a level of certainty that the worker's comp insurance company will accept your claim for hearing loss, but there are some claims that are denied. To avoid this from happening you should:
- As soon as you notice any change in your hearing levels, you need to seek medical attention by a physician who can give you written proof of your hearing loss.
- Ask for a worker’s compensation claim, Form DWC 1 from your employer. Fill out your section as soon as possible and return it to your employer so they can fill out their section and file it with the worker compensation insurance carrier.
- Collect all information pertaining to your injury. This information should include how your hearing has changed, and talk to anyone who can testify on your behalf regarding working conditions and noise levels.
Once your employer sends the claim form off to the insurance company, you should receive an approval or a denial within fourteen days. If you are denied, you will want to contact a worker’s compensation attorney to file an appeal.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) states employers are required to keep a certain standard to ensure their employees can work in a safe environment. If you are working in a workplace that is described or considered loud, your employer is required to have equipment on hand for your use in keeping your ears and hearing safe.
If your employer fails to have adequate safety equipment available for your use, they are in violation of OSHA regulations. OSHA states sounds in the workplace that are above 90 decibels can cause damage to your hearing. Employees who work on landing strips or in construction are exposed to decibels over 100 and should have protective gear to wear over their ears. If you work in any of these conditions and are not provided protection for your ears, contact a workers’ compensation attorney as you may be required to appear in a court of law in front of a judge to plead your case for benefits.
Workers’ compensation insurance has been created to protect you as an employee in the workforce. Filing a claim if you are injured on the job should be an easy process as you are entitled by law to receive up to $10,000 of medical coverage, so you don't have to worry about medical costs for your treatments.
Workers’ comp is a program governed by California laws to look after your health and well-being should you be injured while performing your work duties. This insurance program is in place so as an employee who has been hurt at work can focus on healing without the worry about filing a lawsuit for compensation against their employer.
If you have filed a workers’ comp claim in California and have been denied, you have two directions to go to settle your case; stipulated findings and award, or compromise and release.
- A compromise and release mean you agree to close out your workers’ comp claim in exchange for a lump sum payment. If you accept these terms, you can’t claim any future medical care related to the injury or hearing loss you’ve suffered. You also are unable to reopen your case should your medical needs get worse. The only benefit is the lump sum of money you receive right away without the worry of having to take a chance at a hearing to reinstate benefits.
- Stipulated findings and award mean you settle your case based on stipulated findings. You agree with your insurance company on the level of permanent disability you’ve sustained and how much your benefits should amount to. In this settlement agreement, you will receive biweekly payments versus a lump sum, unless you can agree with the insurance company on a different payment schedule.
- The insurance company, under this settlement, will pay for your future medical care as it is needed, but you will be required to follow California’s Workers’ Compensation Rules for obtaining medical attention.
For you to accept any form of settlement, you will need approval from a California Workers’ Compensation Judge. If you are considering any settlement, you should only do so on the advice of an attorney. Having an attorney working with you through this process will make it much less complicated. There is a lot of paperwork to file when working with California’s Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board and you will be required to appear in front of the judge. Legal counsel is your best chance of winning an appeal for your hearing loss claim.
Find a Competent Workers’ Comp Attorney Near Me?
Having a workers’ comp claim denied is a difficult situation and compounds your stress. You need legal representation from Workers Compensation Attorney Law Firm in Los Angeles. Call 310-956-4277 and let us help you receive the compensation you deserve for your hearing loss or any other work-related injury. We will support and guide you through this challenging legal process to see you receive the benefits you deserve.