Hearing loss can occur over a lifetime as part of the typical aging process. However, when a person’s hearing loss is due to external factors, such as a noisy work environment, ineffective protective gear, negligent workplace protocols and behaviors, or an on-the-job accident, the costs and other damages associated with hearing loss may be covered under Workers’ Compensation.
How Common is Hearing Loss on the Job?
Occupational hearing loss occurs on a regular basis across the country. Usually, it stems from prolonged, unprotected exposure to noise in excess of acceptable limits. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a specific standard for those limits; noise levels must not exceed an average of 85 decibels during an eight-hour shift. To give a sense of perspective, an ordinary dishwasher may be 70 decibels, whereas a motorcycle may be as high as 95 decibels.
Workplace accidents, such as explosions and falling equipment, can cause sudden noise levels that are unusual. People who are on or near the scene of those types of events may end up with either short-term or long-term hearing loss, depending upon the decibel level.
What Occupations Pose a Greater Risk for Hearing Loss?
Employees who work at desks in standard office buildings are at low risk of developing occupational hearing loss. On the other hand, workers who routinely perform their jobs around loud equipment and vehicles, or in busy places, are at a high risk of losing their hearing. Prime examples of fields that may increase the chances of occupational hearing loss for personnel include construction, manufacturing, transit, warehousing, and oil and gas sites. Employees who work behind-the-scenes at music venues, such as arenas and stadiums, may also put themselves at a higher likelihood of being exposed to excessive noise levels far beyond the 85-decibel standard.
What are the Symptoms of Occupational Hearing Loss?
Employees with occupational hearing loss may experience a variety of symptoms. A frequently reported, yet often overlooked, symptom is temporary hearing loss after leaving work. Though hearing may return after a short period of time, the auditory nerves may end up suffering from sustained damage if the worker continues to have the same job-related side effect.
Another symptom is ringing in the ears, which is a condition known as tinnitus. Individuals diagnosed with tinnitus may hear the ringing faintly or very loudly. They may also have ringing that comes and goes. Tinnitus can be debilitating and frustrating. It has even been associated with depression, personality changes, and sleep disturbances.
Having to turn up the volume on the television is a typical result of hearing loss, as well as leaning forward to catch conversations or constantly asking people to repeat what they say. Many people who develop occupational hearing loss start to speak louder, which may be noticed by their family members or co-workers.
How can Employees Lower Their Chances of Occupational Hearing Loss?
Reducing the risk of occupational hearing loss starts with education and preventive measures. Employees who work in careers where noise levels tend to exceed 85 decibels should always wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) issued or recommended by employers. At regular intervals, they should examine their PPE for signs of deterioration of noise reduction materials in earplugs, earmuffs, or ear covers.
In addition to consistently wearing updated PPE, employees can follow proper operational procedures as presented by their employers. All employers should have measures and protocols in place that are designed for workers’ protection. As a final note, employees should stay up to date on any necessary training recommendations to understand the latest ways to safely perform their jobs. This may mean attending voluntary workshops or participating in safety drills that are suggested.
What Should Workers Who Think They Have Job-Related Hearing Loss Do?
Workers who are struggling with hearing loss should either call their primary care physician or an audiologist. Hearing damage cannot be properly self-diagnosed. Medical professionals are well-equipped to fully evaluate potential hearing loss and can also advise on the best ways to mitigate or reverse the damage, if possible.
In addition to getting a check-up, workers with hearing loss should file a Workers’ Compensation claim. Workers’ Compensation is set up to pay for the expenses of a hearing loss diagnosis, treatment, and other hard costs. Additionally, Workers’ Compensation provides employees who cannot continue working a percentage of their salary for a specific period of time.
Can Hearing-Related Claims be Denied?
After submitting a Workers’ Compensation claim, a worker should continue seeking treatment. Workers’ Compensation claims can be denied on a number of grounds. In terms of hearing loss, the Workers’ Compensation provider may argue that the employee already had hearing loss or that the diagnosed hearing loss was due to a factor other than work. The provider may also state that the employee did not provide substantial medical evidence to prove occupational hearing loss. Sometimes, the claim may be denied without a concrete reason.
How Can Employees Improve Their Chances of Receiving Workers’ Compensation?
Finding out that a Workers’ Compensation claim has been denied is a blow to any employee. For someone suffering from the discomfort, expense, and worry of occupational hearing loss, it can be heartbreaking and scary. Nevertheless, employees who feel they have occupational hearing loss and were denied benefits have a choice. A Workers’ Compensation lawyer will review a worker’s case and help them receive the benefits they deserve.
Mount Laurel Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC Help Employees Suffering from Occupational Hearing Loss
If you suffer from occupation hearing loss due to the nature of your job, contact a Mount Laurel Workers’ Compensation lawyer at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC today. Call us at 856-751-7676 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Mount Laurel, Cherry Hill, Trenton, and Vineland, New Jersey, as well as Trevose, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.