If you work in a loud environment or on a noisy job site, you could be at risk of occupational hearing loss. Losing your hearing—whether temporarily or permanently—is not only disorienting, but it can also greatly impact your ability to earn a living and provide for your family. Even though employers are required to provide protections against occupational hearing loss, it can still occur. Here’s what you need to know about hearing loss on the job:
Types Of Occupational Hearing Loss
The ear is composed of three sections: inner, middle, and outer. When damage occurs to any parts of these sections, it can result in hearing loss. There are multiple levels and types of hearing loss, but for the sake of workers’ compensation claims, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) views hearing loss as either an injury (conductive hearing loss) or occupational illness (sensorineural hearing loss):
- Conductive hearing loss: typically 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 take measures to protect their ears and look for the following signs of potential occupational hearing loss:
- 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 over 70 decibels (dBA) of sound can impair hearing over time; for perspective, a normal conversation is around 60 dBA. The average power tool puts out about 100 dBA of sound; 120 dBA 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 dBA—enough to cause instant inner ear damage.
What Do I Do If I Have Occupational 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 occupational 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 who 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 in some cases, so you will want to consult an L&I attorney as well.
Workers’ Compensation Occupational Hearing Loss Attorneys
Hearing loss can affect almost every aspect of your life. A worker whose hearing becomes seriously impaired or suffers permanent damage from exposure to loud noises at work or a sudden workplace injury may qualify for L&I benefits. Our Seattle hearing loss and L&I lawyers handle a wide range of L&I claims and appeals involving occupational hearing loss. Call us today to speak with one of our intake specialists 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 benefits that from L&I to which you are entitled.
Our Seattle L&I Attorneys Will Help You Recover:
- Medical benefits: L&I medical benefits will cover all medical costs associated with your claim. This can include doctor appointments, treatments, surgeries, occupational therapy, and prescription medications.
- Time-loss and wage replacement: If you are approved for time-loss benefits, you may receive compensation for lost wages and vocational rehabilitation.
- Damages for pain and suffering: L&I award amounts vary widely and typically fall into three categories:
- L&I Disability Pensions: A life-long benefit awarded to injured workers who will never be able to return to any gainful employment due to a severe or life-threatening injury.
- Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Awards: A one-time sum paid to injured workers when their L&I claim is closed. The worker can re-enter the workforce following a PPD award.
- Claim Resolution Settlement Agreement (CRSA): An L&I settlement option where all parties agree to close an injury claim for a specified amount. When agreeing to this settlement type, the injured worker exchanges all future benefits, except medical, for the payment.
We understand that many families depend on the income of an injured worker, and our L&I and hearing loss attorneys are dedicated to winning the benefits and compensation to which you are entitled by law. Our practice was founded on a commitment to advocating for workers’ rights, and we are proud of our record protecting the injured and disabled. Call us today to learn how Emery | Reddy can help you with your L&I claim.
Your L&I Claim Is Worth More If You Also Have An Employment Law Claim
A significant number of L&I workers’ compensation claims often involve additional legal claims such as employment law or third-party claims. Many people file their claims without seeking representation from an L&I attorney and thus never discover that in addition to their L&I claim, they may be missing out on the ability to file an employment law claim or a third-party claim. Pursuing additional legal action has the potential to significantly increase a claim’s overall compensation.
What Is An Employment Law Claim?
Many injured workers find that their employer has taken, or plans to take, adverse action against them because they filed an L&I claim or they are out of work. You can file a lawsuit against your employer for several reasons, including retaliation, wrongful termination, disability discrimination, or unpaid wages. An L&I attorney who is experienced in both L&I workers’ compensation law and employment law can help you with your L&I claim while simultaneously filing a federal or state law claim for the violation of workers’ rights by your employer.
What Is A Third-Party Claim?
A third-party claim is one in which someone other than your employer or co-worker is responsible for your injury. If you have been injured on the job due to someone else’s actions or negligence, you may be entitled to additional compensation through a third-party claim, which combines your L&I claim with a personal injury claim using the same facts.
Unlike workers’ compensation payments, there is no limit to the amount of compensation an injured worker may seek in third-party damages.
Who Is At Fault For A Workplace Injury?
L&I is a no-fault system, ensuring compensation for any workplace injury. However, if a third party is involved in causing the injury, you may be able to pursue legal action against them for additional compensation under third-party claims.
How Do I Know If I Have A Case?
The bottom line is that anyone who isn’t familiar with L&I claims should seek the input of experienced L&I attorneys who are.
After years of helping injured workers, Emery | Reddy has recovered hundreds of millions for our clients. Our team of L&I attorneys is experienced in litigating L&I claims, injury law claims, and employment violations. We understand how to leverage each claim in State (or federal) court and before the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals to maximize the value of all of your claims.
Emery | Reddy Can Help You With Your L&I Claim
Emery | Reddy, PLLC is the only law firm in Washington State that is equipped to provide comprehensive representation on your case from every angle. Our Seattle L&I attorneys thoroughly assess every case to determine if our clients have additional claims, and at times this can extend far beyond the underlying workers’ compensation claim.
If you have been injured in the workplace, call Emery | Reddy today to speak with our legal team for a free case review. Please remember to have your L&I claim number readily available.
Want More Information?
To determine the value of your L&I claim, you first need to understand the different types of L&I awards offered in Washington State.
The L&I workers’ compensation process is anything but straightforward. Find out the answers to your L&I workers’ comp questions today.
Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to injured workers.
Meet The Team
The L&I attorneys at Emery | Reddy are passionate about helping workers with L&I claims and employment law issues. We Help Workers®: it’s our motto and it’s what drives us every day.
We know how L&I and big companies think, and we understand the tactics they use. Our labor and industries attorneys use that knowledge coupled with over two decades of experience to help our clients get access to the L&I benefits to which they are legally entitled and hold employers accountable when they break the law.
If you’re struggling with an L&I claim, injury, or legal issue at work, please call us and see how Emery | Reddy can help you today.