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Workers' compensation and hearing loss: Your rights

One thing most people expect is to have their hearing decline as they age. It is common to see hearing loss develop in older people. In some cases, however, hearing loss occurs suddenly or at a much younger age than is expected.

Sometimes, this can be attributed to a workplace injury. Work-related hearing loss is covered by workers' compensation so long as a medical provider and the employee are able to link the hearing loss to a work-related injury or exposure.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set noise exposure limits. Noise levels may reach 90 dBA for up to eight hours a day. Only two hours per day can be at 100 dBA or less. The reality is that high volumes of sound can result in hearing loss or permanent tinnitus if a person is exposed to it for long periods of time, so OSHA keeps strict requirements in place to prevent that from happening.

Can you get compensated if you lose your hearing at work?

Workers' compensation varies in each state, but many recognize that hearing loss is a compensable work-related injury. The amount of compensation you can receive will depend on the extent of the injury. A medical professional needs to provide an exam and determine the extent of the hearing loss. Then, the workers' compensation claim will rely on how affected the individual is.

For example, if you completely lose your hearing, you likely can obtain benefits from the complete disability and your inability to work, at least immediately following the injury. Compared to someone who has partial hearing loss, the person with a permanent disability, such as complete hearing loss, is likely to obtain a higher amount of compensation through workers' compensation.

How can workers avoid hearing loss on the job?

In most workplaces, noise is constant. The trouble is that some work places have excessive noise. In those workplaces, it is important that workers have protective equipment. If an employer does not take steps to reduce the volume of sounds or will not provide noise-canceling equipment, then they may find that workers later file for compensation due to hearing loss or tinnitus. Both conditions are typically irreversible.

Workers have a right to seek compensation if they suffer injuries that result in hearing loss or tinnitus. Both conditions can result in serious changes in a person's life, so the worker should receive medical care and assistance moving forward.

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