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Hearing Loss is a Compensable Injury

When people think of a work-related injury, they think of an injury that requires a cast, brace or crutches. What about an injury that isn’t visible, yet affects how you communicate? There are a number of jobs that produce “hazard noise,” meaning the noise produces enough decibels to cause damage to the inner ear in one or both ears resulting in permanent hearing loss. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have guidelines for the level and amount of exposure to loud noises in the workplace. For NIOSH, 85 decibels is the standard for a regular work day (8 hours). OSHA allows for 90 decibels for a regular work day and 100 decibels for 2-hours. There are a number of jobs that have constant exposure to loud noises, such as:

  • Police Officer
  • Firefighter
  • Construction Worker
  • Paramedics & EMTs
  • Airline Workers
  • Machinists

Hearing loss can also be the result of an injury, which includes a blow to the ear and a strong blast of air into the ear.

How to Test Hearing Loss

When you first discover you have some degree of hearing loss, you should ask your doctor (or the doctor approved by your employer) for an audiogram. An audiogram tests the levels of sounds heard as well as shows the progression of hearing loss. It is conducted in a soundproof room by an audiologist or an otolaryngologist. An employer may require one at the time of employment. You should keep detailed records of your hearing issues.

 

Are You Eligible for Benefits?

There needs to be a direct link between your hearing loss and the noise at your workplace. According to the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, the hearing loss must be 10 percent or greater in both ears to receive workers’ compensation benefits. For permanent hearing loss, a worker can get 66 percent of his/her wages for 260 weeks for each 10 percent of hearing loss. If you have a pre-existing hearing condition, the new hearing loss must equal or be an additional 10 percent.

Filing a Claim for Hearing Loss

When you file a claim for hearing loss, your employer will do everything he can to have it denied. The insurance adjuster will ask for your medical records and compare the results of audiograms. He will also see if you are subjected to loud noises outside of work (e.g. mowing the lawn) and also if you wear hearing protection on a daily basis. There is a three-year limit to filing a claim, which begins on the last day you were exposed to the noise at work.

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