Hearing loss is an underappreciated workplace injury. Not as dramatic as a fire or explosion, excessive noise can nonetheless gradually impair a worker’s hearing to the point they are functionally deaf after months or years of exposure. At Snow, Carpio & Weekley, PLC, our team of Arizona workers’ compensation attorneys represent many people who suffered hearing loss after working on a construction site or in a mill. Excessive noise is in fact an environmental pollutant, almost as dangerous as any airborne toxic chemical.
Can you receive workers’ compensation if excessive noise at the workplace leads to hearing loss? The good news is that you can. A workers’ compensation lawyer in Arizona will gladly discuss your options in greater detail during a free consultation.
What Causes Hearing Loss?
Workplace-induced hearing loss almost always stems from excessive noise. Some workplaces are inherently noisy. This is true of construction, where drilling, blasting, and hammering creates nonstop noise. Anyone working in or near the jobsite could be pounded with loud noise daily, which certainly takes a toll on their hearing.
Manufacturing is another industry with excessive noise. Heavy machinery running nonstop creates a noisy environment which can gradually lead to hearing loss. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control reports that 18% of manufacturing employees have hearing difficulty, and almost half have suffered exposure to hazardous noise.
Other industries with a high risk of hearing loss include police officers or military personnel, who work regularly with firearms, as well as aviation and mining. Someone working as a DJ or in a night club could also face sustained excessive noise.
Most hearing loss isn’t caused by hearing loud noise once but instead stems from sustained exposure to excessive noise. The loss is typically gradual. In fact, hearing loss is so gradual that many workers only become aware of it when family members complain about the loudness of the television or why they need to ask a question several times.
Protection for Employees
Employers must be aware of the noise level at their job sites and take appropriate actions. For example, they should provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to their workers, which might be as simple as ear plugs or more sophisticated noise-dampening earmuffs.
Both state and federal laws set maximum exposure levels for noise. Occupational safety rules do not allow employers to put their head in the sand and pretend there is no problem. Instead, they should proactively measure the noise and devise strategies for limiting exposure to it. For example, they might need to move some workers away from areas where noise is very loud. In other cases, they might need to shorten a workday.
How Hearing Loss Impairs Workers
Workers suffer when their hearing is impaired. This suffering might be most intense outside of work, when they can no longer watch television without putting the sound way up, or when they are constantly asking a spouse to repeat a question. Helpfully, there are hearing aids which can restore some hearing, however imperfectly.
Workers might also be forced to leave a job due to hearing loss. It is dangerous to work when you cannot hear. In fact, some workers suffering from hearing loss only become aware of the condition when they are critically injured at work because they didn’t hear a coworker shouting at them or failed to hear a warning bell. So they have both serious bodily injuries like fractures or concussions along with hearing loss.
What Steps Should a Worker Take after a Hearing Loss Diagnosis?
If you suffered hearing loss, you might qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. A key consideration will be whether your workplace really caused your hearing problems. Many people suffer hearing loss for a variety of reasons. Maybe you have an illness which resulted in hearing loss, or noise at home contributed to your condition. Employers are only responsible for paying benefits if your injury is work related, and they might challenge the causal connection.
As your Arizona workers’ compensation attorney, we might need to gather evidence of the noise pollution at your work. The sooner you reach out to an attorney, the better.
We recommend the following steps to protect your ability to receive benefits:
- Tell your employer immediately that you have suffered hearing loss.
- Speak with a workers’ compensation lawyer about how to build up the evidence for your claim.
- Preserve any ear plugs, earmuffs, or other PPE for inspection by an attorney.
- File your claim for benefits within 1 year of injury. This deadline is hard to measure with a gradual injury like hearing loss. Does the clock start on the day you first suffered hearing loss? The day you received a diagnosis of hearing loss? We recommend filing as soon as possible.
- Request a hearing if your claim is denied.
How Much Compensation Can You Receive?
Hearing loss is a disability. You should receive medical benefits to receive treatment, which can include payment for a hearing aid. Your employer’s insurance provider should cover all medical treatment, so long as the care is reasonable.
You might also qualify for lost wages while you recover. If your hearing loss is permanent, you could also receive either a lump sum or series of payments. Unfortunately, workers’ compensation does not provide damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress, or losses like that.
We also need to consider whether you can file a personal injury lawsuit for your hearing loss. For example, the ear protection d
evices (like earmuffs) could have been defective. Even though you wore them, they failed to protect you from excessive noise
. You could have a product liability claim against the manufacturer for full compensation, including pain and suffering.
Call a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in Arizona Today
Snow, Carpio & Weekley, PLLC, is proud to represent workers who have suffered hearing loss. We will never let an employer or insurer try to minimize your condition. If it isn’t safe to return to work, you should not be forced to suffer financially. Let us review your case. We have spent decades obtaining workers’ compensation benefits for our clients.