Many reasons can cause hearing loss. One of the most common is noise, and can be defined as “Noise-Induced Hearing Loss.” (NIHL) It has a higher percentage of those in manufacturing fields, agriculture, construction, mining, and oil/gas extraction. Many military jobs also run an increased risk of noise damage.
If your hearing becomes compromised due to job conditions, you are entitled to workers’ compensation. However, because hearing loss can develop slowly, it can be hard to know if you should file a claim. Here is what we recommend about how to go through the process from qualifying to making a claim.
Let’s Define Workers’ Compensation
Similar to your cars’ insurance policy that covers your bills if you get into an accident, employers carry workers’ compensation insurance. Because of these policies, your employer can afford to cover medical care costs and potentially lost income due to an accident on the job site.
Simply put, workers comp helps protect businesses and their employees from financial loss when an employee is hurt on the job or gets sick from a work-related cause.
Workers’ Comp Coverage for Oregon:
Oregon workers’ compensation law requires coverage for every employee, whether full- or part-time. Workers’ compensation covers medical benefits, wage loss, and death benefits for a person who’s been injured on the job.
Workers’ comp in hearing loss cases includes medical expenses that cover hearing aids, batteries, servicing, and more, says VP of operations Josh Frantz at Advanced Hearing Providers, which helps both employers and employees handle the claim process.
Most businesses, from bookstores to construction companies, must have some workers’ comp insurance. However, there are exceptions: smaller companies may not be required to purchase this insurance, for example.
Orgeon workers compensation can help Cover
- Sicknesses caused by exposure to harmful elements or allergens at work.
- Accident or injury caused by an employee’s job.
- Repeated strain injuries, or repeated stress injuries, can occur over time.
Oregon workers’ compensation insurance from The Hartford can provide different benefits to help employees with a work-related injury or illness. These benefits can help:
Benefits vary between states, from the payout to cover medical costs to the wages that are protected. And, the amount of time you have to file a claim can vary too. That’s a big deal when it comes to hearing loss. While there’s sometimes a traumatic incident that leads to immediate and noticeable hearing loss, more often, the depravity of hearing is slow and often hard to spot. It can also be hard to pin down a specific cause for hearing loss. For this reason, many businesses may ask employees to take a baseline hearing test when they’re hired.
Understanding Workers Comp
Before filing a claim, it helps to have some idea of what may have prompted your hearing loss. According to the CDC, occupational hearing loss happens for two reasons: loud noise or ototoxic chemicals (nitriles, solvents, and other chemicals can damage the ears or make them more susceptible to damage from loud noises).
This can lead to hearing problems that fall into the subsequent classifications.
- Sensorineural — damage to the nerves
- Conductive — damage to the outer or middle ear system
- Mixed— a combination of sensorineural and conductive
Noise-induced hearing loss generally leads to sensorineural hearing loss. Head trauma and other physical injuries can create conductive or mixed hearing loss. Besides, some injuries can disturb the vestibular system (the system that helps regulate your balance), leading to balance problems, vertigo, dizziness, and other issues related to a loss of equilibrium.
Lastly, tinnitus— ringing in the ears—is another highly prevalent consequence of workplace injuries.
How to qualify for workers’ comp due to hearing loss
Often, this process starts with someone recognizing they have a hearing problem—this can happen because of indications (such as a struggle hearing conversation or tinnitus) or be prompted by a friend or family member’s observation of hearing problems. Some people may get a diagnosis before making a claim or claim and then be prompted to visit an audiologist for a backup to the claim.
If you chose to visit an audiologist first, make sure you file a claim before purchasing hearing aids because you may qualify for benefits that will cover those costs. If the injury happened at your current workplace, be sure to let your employer know. They will then provide you with paperwork to file a state-level claim. If your employer does not offer paperwork or have any questions about where to start making a claim, check for guidance with your state-level insurance program, board, or agency.
Generally, the employer should have you fill out forms detailing the injury and events–the documents are then submitted to the employer’s insurance, in addition to an OSHA and state-level safety organizations.
You’ll likely submit medical reports or information from an audiologist, so if you have not visited an audiologist already, now is the time to do so.
If you presume you have job-related hearing loss, it’s best to take action sooner rather than later. That’s important for medical reasons: Immediate intervention and appropriate hearing protection can prevent most cases of permanent occupational hearing issues.
Hearing loss is different from many other workers’ comp claims.
With other injuries, the goal is to achieve what’s referred to as the “maximum medical improvement” through treatment. That is, treatment options are depleted. But hearing is a bit different from a back injury when it comes to treatment and potential improvement. Once you lose your hearing, it will never return, so the goal is to equip you with the long-term usage tools needed to increase your hearing levels.
Is your workplace safe?
Your employer should take the hearing conditions at the workplace seriously. The Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) determined levels of safe noise and hearing conservation programs. Along with risking employee injury, safety violations can be expensive for employers. According to the standards, a hearing conservation program is required “whenever employee noise exposures equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average sound level (TWA) of 85 decibels measured on the A scale (slow response) or, equivalently, a dose of fifty percent. For purposes of the hearing conservation program, there are calculations involved based on data obtained by monitoring and measuring employee exposures
Nevertheless, reporting can be uncomfortable. An employer may hang legally required OSHA signage in the office and have a “Days Since Last Injury” counter up, but still subtly discourage reporting. Just understand, employers are legally prohibited from preventing workers from reporting injuries and are eligible for citations for retaliatory actions, per OSHA.
How we can Help
Salem Audiology Clinic can help you with understanding your workers’ comps rights and handle testing along with consulting. If you have any questions, please reach out to us and schedule a free consultation today by calling us at (971)701-6322