Work-related injuries are not always caused by one specific accident or incident. Workplace injuries can occur over time due to repetitive motion that stresses certain parts of the body or repeated exposure to harmful elements. Many workers face exposure to loud noise on the job and risk gradual hearing loss as a result. In New Jersey, hearing loss is a covered condition under Workers’ Compensation insurance, allowing workers suffering from hearing loss to recover compensation. Work-related hearing loss can happen in any industry where workers are regularly exposed to high noise levels, including:
- First responders, such as firefighters or emergency medical technicians (EMTs)
- Power plants
- Military service
When noise reaches or exceeds 85 decibels, it can be hazardous to those in the area. Using machinery can expose workers to noise levels of up to 140 decibels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 22 million workers face hazardous noise exposure each year. In some cases, an explosion or other loud noise can cause temporary or permanent hearing damage.
Exposure to certain chemicals can also contribute to hearing loss. Ototoxic chemicals can cause damage to the inner ear and impact a person’s hearing. There are several types of ototoxic chemicals, including organic solvents, such as trichloroethylene; heavy metals, such as mercury or lead; and asphyxiants, such as carbon monoxide. It is difficult to quantify how many workers are exposed to all these chemicals, but the CDC estimates that 10 million workers are exposed to dangerous solvents alone.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are two types of hearing loss that workers may experience, which can affect their Workers’ Compensation claim:
- Sensorineural hearing loss: Damage to the hair cells in the inner ear affects the nerves’ ability to transmit sound. This is the most common type of hearing loss caused by work-related factors.
- Conductive hearing loss: Obstructions in the outer ear canal or middle ear prevent sound from conducting efficiently, making sounds seem faint. This is typically a medical issue that can be fixed with surgery and is not usually work-related.
Workers may experience a combination of these two conditions, causing serious hearing difficulties.
Workers’ Compensation Claims
Workers who suffer from work-related hearing loss are eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits. Depending on the severity of the damage, workers can recover compensation for medical costs and lost wages. In New Jersey, employees suffering from temporary hearing loss or permanent partial hearing loss receive 70 percent of their average weekly earnings. The amount of benefits available may be impacted by whether their hearing loss affects one or both ears and the percentage of hearing loss sustained.
Because there are so many factors that can impact hearing loss, including age and other environmental factors, it can be difficult to prove a Workers’ Compensation claim. Workers must establish that they sustained at least 10 percent hearing loss as a direct result of their work environment; if they already experienced some degree of hearing loss, there must be a 10 percent loss on top of that to be eligible for Workers’ Compensation. Employees who will be exposed to noise on the job may be required to take a hearing test before starting work, and employers should provide these employees with protective gear.
Work-related hearing loss can have serious consequences for workers. An estimated 19 percent of noise-exposed workers experience some degree of hearing impairment, and in most cases, it is permanent. Difficulty hearing can have a profound impact on quality life, affecting a person’s ability to communicate and enjoy things they love, including music. An employee may be limited in their work ability, and income may be lower for hearing-impaired employees. Hearing loss is associated with other chronic conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, cognitive decline, and depression.
Vineland Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at DiTomaso Law Obtain Compensation for Workers with Hearing Loss
If you believe your hearing loss may be work related, contact the Vineland Workers’ Compensation lawyers at DiTomaso Law. We will help you through every step of your claim to ensure that you receive the maximum benefits for which you are eligible. With offices conveniently located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we provide comprehensive representation to workers with hearing loss throughout South Jersey, including Mt. Holly, Camden County, and Vineland. Call us today at 856-414-0010 or contact us online for a free consultation.