We all have fears about our senses declining as we grow older. It can be alarming for anyone to experience a loss of hearing, whether it’s gradual or sudden. If workplace conditions caused your hearing loss, however, you could be eligible to claim workers’ compensation benefits to assist with treatment, medical costs, lost wages, and other financial costs associated with your condition.
In some cases, hearing loss can be directly tied to job-related noise. Occupational hearing loss can occur even when employees wear ear protection. Hearing loss is a common experience for Kentucky factory workers and other workers in noisy jobs, especially if you worked for years in a facility that’s decades old.
In a landmark case, Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer represented one man who experienced workplace hearing loss but was denied workers’ compensation benefits. A doctor had determined that the man’s loss of hearing constituted a 4% disability rating. Existing Kentucky law required at least an 8% impairment rating to qualify for benefits.
In 2018, our firm convinced the Kentucky Court of Appeals to rule that the state law was unconstitutional. The court declared that injuries involving the ear should be looked upon in the same manner as any other traumatic injury. As such, the way the law evaluated hearing loss violated equal protection because it was unrelated to a legitimate state interest.
If you have suffered hearing loss due to work, contact us now for a free discussion about how we can help you seek benefits.
Do You Have a Hearing Loss Claim?
Under Kentucky law, a worker could be eligible for workers’ comp for noise-induced hearing loss caused by hazardous noise exposure. They would have to demonstrate frequent exposure to hazardous noise levels on the job and would have to have their hearing loss verified by audiograms and other testing. The most-recent employer is considered exclusively liable for benefits for the work-related hearing loss.
Even so, some employers and insurance companies may deny such a claim, which makes a lawyer experienced in workers’ comp procedures and technicalities crucially important.
According to federal government estimates, 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work annually.
How Do You Prove Hearing Loss?
For a viable hearing loss claim, an employee needs to prove that the noise in the workplace exceeded a certain level and that it led to a measurable impairment. A doctor’s evaluation plays a major role in determining whether the worker will qualify for benefits.
The Kentucky workers’ comp system relies on the American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment to determine the extent of binaural hearing loss.
Some workers’ compensation insurance companies nonetheless deny claims by insisting that the workplace did not harbor a loud environment or that, for example, the hearing loss was instead connected to age or a preexisting condition.
The experienced and dedicated workers’ compensation lawyers at Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer can perform a thorough investigation to secure the evidence needed to prove your job caused the hearing loss.
What You Should Do When Your Job Causes Hearing Loss
You need to take the immediate steps as soon as you realize that you might be suffering from hearing loss due to workplace conditions. First, report your injury to your employer as soon as possible. You must submit a report either in writing or orally to an employer within 30 days of the date you became aware of the hearing loss.
Make sure you seek medical attention, and tell the doctor about how your hearing loss happened while also getting an “off work slip” if your physician believes you should stay home. You should also retain a workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible to assist you with your benefits claim.
What You Could Get with Workers’ Comp
Workers’ compensation usually covers partial replacement of lost wages if you have to stay home. It also covers medical expenses relating to your hearing loss, including the possibility of surgery to address the condition.
You could also be entitled to reimbursement for travel, prescription medications, and medical devices such as hearing aids. Additional benefits for temporary or permanent hearing loss may also be available depending on the specific circumstances.
How Can I Get Disability for Hearing Loss?
Section 2.10 of the Social Security Blue Book, the listing of impairments from the Social Security Administration (SSA), is related to hearing loss not treated with cochlear implantation. To qualify for hearing loss benefits, a person must satisfy one of two tests.
An audiometry test must reveal an average air conduction hearing threshold of 90 decibels or greater in the better ear and an average bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 decibels or greater in the better ear.
In the alternative, a word recognition test must result in a score of 40 percent or less in the better ear determined by a standardized list of phonetically balanced monosyllabic words. Even when a worker does not qualify under either two test, they could still be entitled to disability benefits by proving that the hearing loss prevents them from working at another job.
Common Causes of Occupational Hearing Loss
Noise in a workplace is considered hazardous when it exceeds 85 decibels, and someone must raise their voice to speak with a co-worker three feet away. Some jobs pose a much higher risk of hearing loss, such as those that involve heavy machinery.
Construction workers and people employed in airline ground maintenance positions are also at heightened risk for hearing loss. Not all workplace noise is continuous, and hearing loss can also be the result of sudden loud noises.
Exposure to ototoxic chemicals could also lead to hearing loss for some workers. These chemicals can cause damage to the inner ear, and include:
- Heavy metals like lead and mercury
- Trichloroethylene and other organic solvents
- Carbon monoxide and other asphyxiants
How a Kentucky Workers’ Comp Attorney Can Help You
Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer prides itself on using Kentucky Courage to protect the rights of the clients we serve. Our firm is committed to helping you seek the compensation you are entitled to for suffering a hearing loss in the workplace. We will fight to seek benefits so that you won’t have to pay anything out of your own pocket for hearing loss treatment and other costs associated with your job-induced hearing loss.
We will take the time to get to know you, how you lost your hearing, and how your condition is affecting your life. Call us or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.