Not everyone works in a quiet office. Some of the most important jobs require workers to spend long periods of time in loud factories or on construction sites where there is constant noise that can permanently affect their hearing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hearing loss is actually the most common work-related injury. There are around 23,000 cases of occupational hearing loss every year, comprising a staggering 14 percent of all occupational illnesses.
Many of these individuals do not realize that their hearing loss may be a compensable work injury. However, workers who suffer from hearing loss collectively receive approximately $242 million for hearing loss disability through Workers’ Compensation benefits, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
If you are injured on the job in a work-related accident, such as exposure very loud noise that damages your hearing; or, if you are exposed to loud volume over time that slowly degrades your ability to hear, induces Tinnitus, ringing in the ears or a perforated eardrum you may be entitled to compensation. Injured workers can file a claim for Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation benefits. Workers’ Compensation provides workers with a no-fault, immediate right to payment of medical expenses relating to their work-injury, as well as lost wages. Typically, when an employee files for Workers’ Compensation, they waive their right to file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer. However, if you receive Workers’ Compensation for your hearing loss, you still may be able to sue any third parties responsible for your hearing loss injury.
Workers’ Compensation laws vary by state. In Pennsylvania, you must be evaluated by a hearing specialist to determine the “percentage” of your hearing loss. The Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Act provides that a hearing loss of 10 percent or more in both ears (“binaural hearing loss”) is covered by Workers’ Compensation. People who suffer a 10 percent hearing loss often report that they are unable to hear the television or voices over the telephone.
Existing hearing loss will be taken into consideration when rendering an appropriate calculation of benefits. For example, if your hearing was already 30 percent degraded prior to starting your employment, your job must have increased your disability by 10 percent before you are eligible to receive Workers’ Compensation.
Workers who suffer from permanent hearing loss as a result of their job are entitled to 66.66 percent of their wages for 260 weeks for each 10 percent of hearing loss.
To be eligible for benefits, you must also show that you were exposed to “hazardous noise” while working.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has enacted specific guidelines to prevent hearing loss in American workers. According to OSHA, noise levels at work should be kept to below 85 dBA for eight hours to minimize the risk of hearing loss. Employees subjected to this level of noise must be notified by their employer of the risk, and must be provided with audiometric testing and free hearing protectors. Employers must also offer training programs for effected workers. Unfortunately, employers routinely disregard these guidelines.
It is undisputed that there are a high number of cases of occupational hearing loss. Critics point out that the OSHA guidelines may be outdated, because they do not factor in extraneous sound, such as that beyond the limits of the workplace (for example, restaurants, concerts, and sporting venues) that add to a worker’s cumulative risk of harm.
A recent study conducted by researchers at Stanford University found that employees who suffer most from hearing loss are those who work in jobs involving moderate noise levels, instead of “hazardous noise” levels. This may be because these employees are unaware of the risk, and do not wear hearing protection.
It can be hard to know whether you are suffering from work-related hearing loss. Hearing tends to degrade slowly over time, making it hard to discern any noticeable changes. If you are exposed to loud volume on-the-job, it is important to speak with an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer right away, because there is a statute of limitations for filing a claim for hearing loss benefits. If you wait too long, you could forfeit your right to compensation. To speak to one of the experienced Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at E.S. Borjeson & Associates, call us today or contact us online. With offices located in Center City Philadelphia, we proudly serve injured workers throughout the region.