Can Workers’ Comp Help With Your Hearing Loss?
Even with today’s focus on workplace safety, hearing loss remains one of the country’s leading occupational hazards. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control, roughly 11 percent of the workforce suffers from hearing problems, and nearly a quarter of those injuries are caused by occupational exposure. And on any given workday, about 22 million American workers labor in an environment of hazardous noise.
Basics of Hearing Loss
There are two primary causes of occupational hearing loss. The first is the more obvious: exposure to excessive noise, typically classified as anything above 85 decibels or higher. Another way to describe that is an environment where you have to raise your voice to talk to someone who is an arm’s length away. A hair dryer or power lawn mower operates at about 90 decibels. The other thing that can cause hearing loss at work is exposure to ototoxic chemicals such as organic solvents, heavy metals, and asphyxiants.
Hearing loss, though, isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. According to the Center for Hearing and Communication, there are two types:
Conductive hearing loss: This type of hearing loss indicates a problem with the mechanism that conducts sound from the environment to the inner ear. Problems in the external auditory canal, eardrum or the hearing bones could cause a conductive loss. This type of loss typically can be corrected with medication or surgery. If it can’t be rectified, the victim can usually operate effectively with a hearing aid.
Sensorineural hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss suggests a problem in the organ or nerve of hearing. There could be damage to the cochlea, auditory nerve, or the auditory centers of the brain. Someone with a sensorineural hearing loss may benefit from a hearing aid, cochlear implant, communication therapies, and other medical management depending on the degree of the loss or the cause.
The Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act does cover occupational hearing loss. Colorado law considers it a “scheduled injury.” According to workers’ comp, this category of damage seems more complicated than it is. Here is the method of determining the scheduled injury:
- The injury, in this case the occupational hearing loss, is assigned a value, expressed as a number of weeks.
- This value is then multiplied by a percentage, derived from the extent of the injury (in this case, the hearing loss). The medical provider determines this percentage.
- The benefit amount is then determined by taking this product and multiplying it by the weekly compensation rate at the time of the injury.
There are also other circumstances, such as the extent to which the employer attempted to mitigate the noise level at the workplace, whether a third party might have been involved (such as the vendor who manufactures the noisy equipment), or whether there was previous hearing damage.
If you have suffered hearing loss because of your job, do not try to handle your claim by yourself. We are here to help! Call the Colorado workers’ comp lawyers at Burg Simpson at 303-792-5595 or fill out a FREE Evaluation Form right now.