Work-Related Hearing Loss
If you work in a loud environment or noisy job site, you could be at risk for work-related hearing loss. Losing your hearing, whether temporarily or permanently, can be disorienting and greatly impact your ability to earn a living and provide for your family. Employers are required by Washington state law to provide protections against hearing loss. Unfortunately, occupational hearing loss can still occur. Here’s what you need to know about hearing loss on the job.
Types Of Work-Related Hearing Loss
The ear is composed of three parts: inner, middle, and outer. When damage occurs to any of these parts, it can result in hearing loss. There are multiple levels and types of hearing loss, but for the sake of workers’ compensation claims, L&I views hearing loss as either an injury (conductive hearing loss) or occupational disease (sensorineural hearing loss).
- Conductive hearing loss is usually caused by a single event, such as an explosion or head injury, which damages the outer or middle ear and results in temporary or permanent hearing loss. In mild cases, it will heal on its own, but more serious cases will require treatment and/or hearing devices.
- Sensorineural hearing loss affects the inner ear and typically happens over time but can occur suddenly, leading to partial or total hearing loss. Generally, this type of hearing loss cannot be reversed and is treated with hearing aids.
Signs And Symptoms Of Occupational Hearing Loss
Many factors affect job-related hearing impairment, including loudness, pitch, the length of a worker’s exposure to noise, and patterns and frequency of using ear protection (such as headsets or ear plugs). Employees who are exposed to high levels of noise in the workplace should look for the following signs of potential hearing loss, and take measures to protect their ears:
- Muffled or distorted sound
- Difficulty hearing high-pitched noises
- Ringing or roaring sounds in one or both ears
- Difficulty understanding others during conversation
- Dizziness or balance issues
How Noisy Is Your Workplace?
Ongoing exposure to just 85 decibels (dB) of sound can impair hearing over time; in contrast, a normal conversation is around 60 dB. The average power tool puts out about 100 dB of sound; 120 dB is sufficient to cause permanent hearing loss after just a few hours without any protection. Standing in proximity to an active nail gun can expose a worker to as much as 140-170 dB—enough to cause instant inner ear damage.
What Do I Do If I Have Work-Related Hearing Loss?
Are there times when you need to shout to be heard above the noise at work, or strain to understand someone standing nearby talking in a normal voice? If your workplace noise levels are causing hearing loss, you need to see a medical professional right away. You may need to consult your primary care doctor first to get a referral to an audiologist, a doctor that specializes in hearing loss.
Your hearing will be tested via an audiogram and the doctor will then determine if you need hearing aids or another form of treatment. Proving that hearing loss is caused by a job-related injury or workplace exposure can be difficult to prove in some cases, so you will want to consult an L&I attorney as well.
Workers’ Compensation Hearing Loss Attorney
Hearing loss can affect almost every aspect of your life. A worker whose hearing becomes seriously impaired or suffers permanent hearing loss from exposure to loud noises at work or a sudden workplace injury may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Our Washington workers’ compensation attorneys handle a wide range of L&I claims and appeals involving work-related hearing loss. Call our firm today and speak with one of our staff to learn how Emery | Reddy, PLLC may be able to help you. We can determine whether you have a case and how to best help you get the medical treatment you’re entitled to from L&I.
A Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Will Help You Recover:
- Current and ongoing medical costs
- Lost wages and lost potential income
- Damages for pain and suffering
- Lost quality of life from a permanent injury, disability, or other factors
We understand that many families depend on the income of an injured worker, and our workers’ compensation attorneys are dedicated to winning the benefits and compensation you need and deserve. Our practice was founded on a commitment to advocating for workers’ rights, and we are proud of our record protecting the injured and disabled. Contact us today for a free case review on your hearing loss or workers’ compensation claim. Please remember to have your L&I claim number readily available.