Occupational Hearing Loss
Work-related hearing loss can develop over time or happen suddenly, and it is more common than one might think. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites it as being the third most common type of physical condition. It is a prevalent work-related illness with close to 25 percent of employee hearing problems caused from work environments. It can be caused by loud noises or chemical exposure to the inner ear, and damage can be temporary or permanent. In some cases, the injured person may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation.
The CDC reports that 22 million members of the U.S. workforce are exposed to dangerous noises every year, and 10 million are in contact with hazardous solvents that can affect their hearing. When noise levels reach higher than 85 decibels, this is possibly hazardous. As for dangerous chemicals, these include:
- Heavy metals, including mercury and lead
- Asphyxiants, including carbon monoxide
- Organic solvents, including trichloroethylene
How Hearing Loss Affects Quality of Life
In many cases, hearing loss is permanent and may significantly impact one’s quality of life. Being unable to hear makes it hard to understand and communicate with others. This can lead to depression and anxiety. Hearing loss is also associated with heart disease, high blood pressure, and cognitive decline.
An inability to enjoy music and hear the voices of loved ones can also affect one’s quality of life. Additional issues include a lowered income from not being able to return to work in the same capacity and safety concerns from not being able to hear well. Some workers experience chronic tinnitus, a persistent ringing in the ears that affects concentration and sleep.
Workers’ Compensation for Occupational Hearing Loss
An audiologist must determine whether an employee’s hearing loss was caused by workplace conditions and if so, that worker may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation. Severe hearing damage can make it impossible for the employee to return to work, and in these cases, they may qualify for disability benefits. Each state has its own laws pertaining to Workers’ Compensation and hearing loss. Title 19 of Delaware’s Workers’ Compensation Labor Laws specify that permanent injuries, such as hearing loss, are payable from the first day the injury occurred. This includes hospital services, surgeries, medical care, supplies, medicine, and funeral costs.
Some employers may argue against the worker receiving benefits, claiming that advanced age, not wearing protective equipment, or other reasons led to the hearing loss. A qualified Workers’ Compensation attorney can provide legal guidance in these circumstances. It may be possible to receive Workers’ Compensation even if there was a prior injury that was aggravated by the work environment.
Hearing Loss Prevention
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a good resource for occupational hearing loss prevention guidelines. In addition to their recommended standards and regulations, they advocate for the use of hearing protective devices and noise control strategies. Other ways to reduce noise exposure include wearing protective equipment, such as earphones and foam plugs, staying away the noise source, and reducing the amount of time spent in the loud area. When working with chemicals, it is also important to use protective gear, to carefully read safety instructions, and to avoid toxic chemicals when possible.
Wilmington Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at McCann & Wall, LLC Represent Workers Suffering from Occupational Hearing Loss
If your work-related hearing loss affected your quality of life, do not hesitate to contact the experienced Wilmington Workers’ Compensation lawyers at McCann & Wall, LLC. We will review your case and obtain the benefits you rightfully deserve. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients throughout the state, including Dover, Middletown, and Newark. Call us at 302-888-1221 or complete our online form for a free consultation.