What Happens When You Claim Hearing Loss as a Work Injury?

  • Dan T. Matrafajlo
  • Fri Feb 2018
  • Work Injury,
  • 0

hear lossAt first, you thought it was your imagination.  However, you soon realize that you’re having difficulties hearing simple conversations.   Truth be told, you’ve often wondered if all the loud noise at work could be causing you harm.  What if there is a causal relationship between your hearing loss and the time you spend on the job?   Would this be considered a work injury?

First, the sound of clanking machines is one example of how you could suffer work-related hearing loss.  Those working in the manufacturing industry can be subject to loud noises.  Meanwhile, construction workers use a variety of tools that make loud sounds.  You could also suffer hearing loss if you work in the entertainment business or a nightclub.

Not all hearing loss claims involve noise exposure.  Unfortunately, a single traumatic workplace injury can affect an employee’s hearing and possibly cause irreparable damage.  For example, what if something explodes when you’re on a job site, and you lose your hearing?

Some Statistics on Hearing Loss

You might not be reassured that you are not alone as far as working in a loud environment. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to high noise levels at work annually.

No doubt it would make sense to establish some across the board standards to protect such a high number of potential hearing loss victims.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health set guidelines limiting the level of noise exposure at the workplace to 85 continuous decibels (think vacuum cleaner noise) over an eight-hour period.

While noise-induced hearing damages can occur in many industries, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found the top industries with the highest rates of occupational hearing loss due to noise exposure were mining, manufacturing, and construction.  Of course, there’s no mining going on in NJ, but construction and manufacturing jobs are plentiful.

Claiming Hearing Loss as an Injury

The State of New Jersey offers this summary of workers’ compensation laws as outlined in NJSA 34:15-1 to -128.  In short, employers are required to provide insurance coverage for eligible claimants of work-related injuries due to hearing loss.

For example, a factory employee working long hours daily around loud machines without ear protection might claim to have symptoms of hearing damage, such as difficulty hearing, loss of balance, or ringing in the ears.

On the one hand, the factory employee might claim a work-related injury from excessive noise under N.J.S.A. 34:15-35.11, which states that noise-induced occupational hearing loss can be “due to prolonged, habitual exposure to hazardous noise in employment.” The factory worker, however, must demonstrate that the hearing loss is work-related.

On the other hand, an employer might require factory workers to use protective devices, such as ear plugs and ear muffs.N.J.S.A 34:15-35.22 indicates that “no compensation shall be payable for loss of hearing caused by hazardous noise {if} an employee willfully fails to properly and effectively utilize suitable protective device or devices….”

What about that traumatic event we referred to previously?  Something heavy could fall on an employee in such a way to injure the ear.  An assault could occur at work.  Once again, a loud explosion could cause issues.   In any of these circumstances, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you determine whether you are entitled to benefits.

Contact Us

Work-related hearing loss can negatively affect your life.  Beninato & Matrafajlo Attorneys at Law has experience in work-related hearing loss cases. If you are an employee experiencing occupational hearing loss, please call set up a consultation.  There is no charge to meet with us.  We look forward to speaking with you!

 

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