The CDC estimates roughly 24% of hearing difficulties by U.S. workers are the result of work-related injuries. The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act has adopted the AMA Guides To the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment to establish the percentage of loss an employee may be entitled. The loss has to be at a percentage of more than 10% or no benefits are payable. Under long-term exposure the percentage is calculated according the binaural formula. Hearing loss due to causes other than long-term exposure is measured as a loss in one or both ears. The hearing loss must be permanent.
Therefore, hearing loss workers’ compensation covers tools that supplement a person’s hearing such as hearing aids and deaf-friendly alert devices in addition to doctor’s visits and other medical help. Additionally, you can be paid money for the percentage of your hearing loss. Common signs of hearing loss include needing others to repeat themselves, trouble discerning conversation in noisy areas, and consistently requiring the television to be at a high volume.
Causes of Hearing Loss
According to the CDC, hearing loss in the workplace can be caused by either loud noises (either traumatic or prolonged exposure over time) or chemicals, which can either cause damage themselves or make the ear more susceptible to hazardous noises. In most cases, hearing loss is caused by prolonged exposure, rather than a singular event, and leads to loss of hearing in the lower decibel levels. The causes of hearing loss can be separated into two categories: sensorineural and conductive.
Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the ear’s nerves, typically the result of loud noise, including blasts and explosions. While possible in any industry, workers in agriculture, construction, carpentry, oil/gas extraction, and manufacturing are at higher risk for noise-induced hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss is the result of damage to the outer and middle ear. Common causes include chemicals and foreign objects.
Hearing loss can also result from a combination of sensorineural and conductive damages such as head trauma injuries. In addition to loss of hearing, ear injuries can result in vestibular system damage, leading to balance problems such as vertigo and dizziness. Tinnitus is also a common result of ear damage in the workplace.
Hearing Loss Workers’ Compensation
In Pennsylvania, a hearing loss workers’ compensation claim must be filed within three years of the event leading to the loss of hearing. If the hearing loss was caused by an ongoing issue, such as a hazardous work environment, the three-year statute of limitations begins the last day a person worked in that position, regardless of if they later stayed with the company and moved to another role with no exposure to cause of the damage.
One of the main goals of a workers’ compensation hearing loss claim will be to show that the hearing loss occurred because of work-related events. While certain causes can be straight-forward, such as head injuries or acoustic trauma from explosions, the majority of hearing loss cases in the workforce are the result of prolonged exposure over a period of time. You will need to provide evidence that the hearing loss was a result of your job. You will need to have a professional medical opinion on your hearing loss and have medical records available for review. While early medical intervention can be important to prevent further damage to your hearing, we recommend that you have seen an audiologist before filing your hearing loss workers’ compensation claim.
Unlike other injuries, where the objective for workers’ compensation is improvement in health, hearing loss is largely permanent. Therefore, the goal is to help a person’s hearing through long-term tools such as hearing aids. In Pennsylvania, hearing loss workers’ compensation benefits are typically two thirds of an individual’s gross weekly wage, for up to 260 weeks of compensation benefits. The number of weeks awarded is based on the severity of the hearing loss.
Hearing loss can affect many areas of a person’s personal and professional life and should not be taken lightly. If you or a loved one has suffered from loss of hearing because of a job, Dugan & Associates worker’s compensation lawyers will work to pursue fair and just compensation for loss of earnings, damages, and medical expenses including hearing aids. The average cost of prescription hearing aids is $4,700 for a set and can be upwards of $8,000. Contact us today online or by telephone at 412-353-3572 to speak with a knowledgeable Pennsylvania hearing loss worker’s compensation lawyer to get the treatment and compensation you deserve.