Do you suffer from ringing in your ears? Do voices sound muffled? Do you have trouble hearing in restaurants and other crowded areas? Is your hearing just not what it used to be before you got your job? If any of these ring a bell, pun intended, you may be excited to learn that the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act provides wage-loss and medical benefits for individuals who have suffered hearing loss as a result of their occupation or a specific workplace injury. This potential hearing loss compensation covers industrial noise coming from generators, turbines, construction machinery, etc. If it makes noise, and you are exposed to it on a regular basis at work, you may be entitled to anywhere from 26 to 260 weeks’ worth of your average wages without having to stop working. There is also a “healing period” that provides an additional 10 weeks’ worth of wage benefits. While these benefits are based on wages, you do not have to stop working to receive them. These same workman’s comp benefits are available for hearing loss caused by traumatic events including car accidents, head trauma, brain injury, and explosions.
You may be thinking, “well my ears ring sometimes, but I can still hear.” You would be surprised to learn that the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act provides benefits as long as your binaural hearing loss, or hearing loss in both ears, is over 10%. So even if you don’t need or want a hearing aide, you may still be entitled to hearing loss workmen compensation.
In successful work comp claims, your Employer is responsible for paying for whatever hearing device you need (think hearing aids, assistive listening systems, cochlear implants, etc.) at no cost to you. This means getting the treatment you need without pesky co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs.
Is your job noisy? This feels like an easy question. Let me ask you a harder question: Are you exposed to hazardous occupational noise at work? The answer is no longer nearly as straightforward. That’s where we come in. We have compiled a list of signs that indicate you are probably exposed to hazardous noise at work and may be entitled to hearing loss benefits under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. But remember, if these factors don’t sound like your job, that does not mean you are not exposed to occupational noise. Further, hearing loss benefits are also available for one-time traumatic events that cause a loss of hearing.
Undergoing a hearing test at the time of hire is one of the best indicators that your job may expose you to occupational noise. This is your employer’s way of determining whether you have a hearing impairment at the time of hire. Sometimes this is done simply to determine whether your hearing is adequate to perform your job duties. However, pre-employment hearing tests, and periodic hearing tests throughout the course of your employment, are regularly used by companies who expose their worker’s to hazardous occupational noise. These tests are used to measure your hearing to determine how much hearing loss was caused by your employment. It is important to undergo these periodic hearing tests when your Employer asks you to because refusing to do so can forfeit your right to benefits.
Some jobs, like a demolitions expert or a construction worker who uses a jack hammer every day are obvious examples of jobs with occupational noise. Jobs near machinery like turbines and power drills can also produce significant noise especially if the job is performed indoors. If you work near large diesel trucks or are exposed to sirens from emergency vehicles, these may also cause hearing loss.
When your employer provides you with hearing protection for your job, that is basically a neon sign indicating that you are exposed to hazardous occupational noise at work. This means ear plugs and over the ear hearing protection as well as other devices. Even if you are not required to wear hearing protection throughout the entire course of your day, you may be exposed to hazardous noise that can damage your hearing. Hearing protection is not 100% effective and just because you are taking the proper steps to protect your hearing, does not mean that you have not sustained hearing impairment from your job.
Occupational hearing loss comes in many different shapes, forms, and sizes. There are obvious examples like an individual who operates a jack hammer each day on a construction sight or an individual who works next to a generator or turbine. Then there are less obvious examples such a fall or motor vehicle accident at work that causes hearing loss in the form of a head injury. There are even individuals who suffer a hearing loss from an explosion at work. The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act provides benefits for each of these forms of hearing loss by splitting hearing loss into two categories: long-term exposure to hazardous occupational noise and acoustic trauma/head injury. Both categories of hearing loss are entitled to wage and medical benefits if the binaural hearing loss, meaning hearing loss in both ears, caused by your work is greater than a total of 10%. If you believe you may be exposed to hazardous noise at work, do not hesitate to give us a call for a free consultation.
Long-term exposure is exactly how it sounds, a long-term exposure to noise at work. This category or hearing loss applies to the individual working with a jackhammer or next to a turbine on a regular basis. Just because you are provided with ear protection at work does not mean you cannot suffer hearing loss. Long-term exposure to hazardous noise does require semi-regular exposure but you should be sure to consult with an attorney before ruling yourself out of wage and medical benefits
Unlike the semi-regular exposure required to be entitled hearing loss benefits for long-term exposure, hearing loss from acoustic trauma or a head injury is usually traceable to a singular event. For example, if you work on a construction site and a propane tank explodes causing you to have ringing in your ears or a loss in hearing, you may be entitled to wage and medical benefits. If you drive a vehicle for work and are involved in a motor vehicle accident (MVA) that causes a hearing impairment, you are also entitled to benefits.
In general, hearing loss can be calculated by testing the hearing loss in one ear, or the monaural loss of hearing, or by testing the hearing loss in each ear together, otherwise referred to as a binaural loss of hearing.
If you were exposed to occupational noise in the last three years, you may be eligible for workers’ comp benefits. If you think any of the above might apply to you, please give me a call at 215-627-0700 or contact me by email. My office can provide you with a free consultation to determine whether you may be entitled to hearing loss workers comp benefits and set you up with a doctor to test your hearing. But remember, the clock is ticking so call now!