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Workers’ Compensation for Hearing Loss
Although work-related hearing loss can come on suddenly from an explosion or other extremely loud noise, it is more common for occupational hearing loss to develop slowly over time. Some of the most common occupations for a worker to experience permanent hearing loss include construction workers, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, manufacturing and machine operators, military personnel, nightclub entertainers, and paramedics.
Of course, you can experience significant hearing loss in any occupation if the circumstances are right. Even a mild hearing loss can affect your quality of life and ability to perform your job duties safely and correctly. If you were not born with a hearing impairment but developed it on the job, you may be eligible for hearing loss workers compensation. Terry Katz & Associates, a New York workers’ compensation law firm, represents clients just like you to help them receive temporary or long-term benefits related to their job-related hearing loss.
Workers’ Compensation Hearing Loss Claims in NY
One positive thing about hearing loss is that it does not have to be permanent. Unfortunately, many workers with reduced hearing think it is no big deal and that the problem will resolve on its own. This can make the condition worse. If you are having difficulty hearing that you never had before, it is important to schedule an appointment for a hearing test and treatment as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, on-the-job hearing loss is common. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that nearly 40 million Americans experience some degree of hearing impairment due to exposure to dangerously loud noises, solvents, and metals.
The workers’ compensation system in New York offers benefits for two types of work-related hearing loss. The first category is traumatic hearing loss. This occurs due to exposure to a sudden and extremely loud noise such as an explosion. Occupational hearing loss is the second category of hearing-related workplace disability. This occurs due to ongoing exposure to loud noises. A construction worker who develops hearing loss after years of operating a specific piece of equipment is a good example of a worker in the latter category.
A workers compensation hearing loss settlement will cover all medical costs associated with your traumatic or occupational hearing loss, including hearing aids if you need them. However, the insurance company representing your employer must approve your claim and you must submit it within the state’s statute of limitations. This is currently 24 months for a traumatic hearing loss and 27 months for an occupational hearing loss. The 27-month countdown for the latter category begins as soon as you associate your hearing loss with your work duties.
New York law requires that you be away from the harmful noise exposure for a minimum of 90 days before you file a claim. You can visit an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor called an otolaryngologist or an audiologist, a specialist in hearing. The medical professional you visit will perform a test that measures whether you have a hearing loss and your degree of loss. This provides you with the medical evidence you need to proceed with filing a workers’ compensation hearing loss claim.
How Does Work-Related Hearing Loss Occur?
Besides exposure to sudden loud noises, another way that you could experience a traumatic hearing loss is from a blow to the head or a forceful blast of air directly into your ear. As mentioned above, it also develops when you work in too-loud environments for several years.
Organizations dedicated to workplace safety, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), set limits for the level of noise a worker should be exposed to during their shift. OSHA selected 90 decibels for an eight-hour workday while NIOSH sets the limit at 85 decibels for the same time period. Employers are legally obligated to provide hearing protection to employees when the noise in their environment exceeds these thresholds.
How Can My Job Can Impact My Hearing?
Audiologists and ENT specialists measure sounds in decibels. The higher the decibels, the louder the sound and the greater the risk of damaging or losing your hearing. To get a better idea of how this works, a motorcycle or truck that is five yards away from you emits a decibel level of 90. An airplane emits a 130-decibel level when it is 100 feet away.
It is easy to see how hearing can be threatened when that level of sound is even closer to you as a worker. In fact, several research studies have indicated that continuous exposure to a decibel level above 80 can damage the nerves of the inner ear. Workers comp hearing loss is meant to provide you with financial resources so you can get the medical help you need as well as recover from the ongoing noise exposure.
How Can I Protect Myself?
When you work in a noisy environment, you must wear the hearing protection gear provided by your employer. Make sure that you know how to use them properly to avoid additional damage to your ears. Your employer should provide training when you start working for the company or when you transfer to a position that requires you to wear hearing protection. It is also a good idea to take frequent breaks from your noisy environment during the work day. Your ears and hearing are still at risk even when you are wearing earplugs. Additionally, work away from loud equipment whenever possible.
Sometimes you do everything right and still experience anything from mild to total hearing loss due to on-the-job noise exposure. If so, you are entitled to file for a workers’ compensation hearing loss settlement.
Contact a Long Island Workers’ Comp Lawyer
The New York workers’ compensation system uses a Schedule Loss of Use Award that can become quite complex. It awards monetary benefits based on the percentage of hearing loss in each ear as well as the duration and extent of your hearing disability. The system also puts a cap on how much you can receive and how long you can receive it. The maximum weekly benefit is two-thirds of your salary up to an amount adjusted annually by the state.
Terry Katz & Associates is a Long Island law firm that continually fights for the rights of injured workers. If your workers’ compensation claim has been denied or you feel you are being treated unfairly, please reach out to us for help by calling 1-888-488-7459. A hearing loss lawyer will meet with you at no charge to learn more about your case and advise you on what to do moving forward.