Hearing loss is a fairly common work injury. It occurs when workers are exposed to extremely high noise levels over a long period of time. It could also occur from exposure to certain chemicals or metals.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that over 30 million workers are exposed to noise levels that could cause permanent hearing damage. Another 9 million workers may lose their hearing for other reasons.
Many people do not think of hearing loss as a work injury. They mistakenly assume that it is just a normal part of the aging process.
Read on to learn more about how hearing loss could actually be a potential workers’ compensation case. You can also visit here to read more about working with a workers’ compensation lawyer.
Hearing Loss as a Permanent Impairment
Generally, once you have lost your ability to hear, there is no getting it back. You can use medical devices to help you hear better, but your hearing will never be the same again. This is the major reason that Florida considers hearing loss a permanent impairment.
Federal standards regulate the maximum decibel threshold for noise that you can be exposed to at work. It also determines how long you can be exposed to that noise.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) states that you cannot be exposed to noise levels higher than 90 decibels for 8 hours per day.
OSHA has also established guidelines that do not allow employers to expose you to noise at 100 decibels for more than two hours per day. After 85 decibels, you can experience hearing loss that can change your life.
See examples of noise levels by visiting the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s Noise Meter.
Hearing Loss and Workers’ Compensation in Florida
Florida law lays out very specific testing and hearing loss requirements to receive workers’ compensation.
Below is a quick overview of the steps Florida law uses to determine a hearing loss impairment rating:
- Testing at a variety of noise levels
- Those results are converted into percentages according to a prescribed method
- Those percentages are then converted into another percentage rating of impairment using a chart called The Relationship of Binaural Hearing Impairment to Impairment of the Whole Person
- That percentage is then applied to your wage amounts and your workers’ compensation rate
Read more about workers’ compensation rates here.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss often comes on gradually, which means it can be difficult to detect. However, early detection is important to prevent further damage, and it may be important to your workers’ compensation case.
Take notice of the following signs and symptoms of hearing loss:
- Sounds seem far away or distorted
- Sounds are muffled
- It is difficult to understand people speaking
- Inability to hear high pitched noises
- Hearing ringing in one or both of the ears
Tinnitus is a common side effect of hearing loss; it is the technical term for “ringing in the ears”.
However, this condition can include more than just ringing: Sounds like buzzing, hissing, whistling, and chirping are a few common examples.
Most people notice tinnitus at night when they are trying to sleep. Because of this, it can also lead to sleep problems or disturbances.
Concentration problems can also result. An estimated 50 million adults in the United States suffer from some form of tinnitus.
Getting Help with Your Hearing Loss from a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Problems with your hearing and ears can affect your life more than you might think. That is why Florida law allows for up to a 35 percent impairment to the whole body under the workers’ compensation system.
Find out more by speaking with a workers’ compensation lawyer in West Palm Beach today.