Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Hearing Loss?

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hearing loss

There are several types of medical conditions that are covered under Maryland’s Workers’ Compensation law that are not normal work-related type injuries. Hearing loss is one of those medical conditions. If you have suffered from hearing loss caused by a work-related injury or by your work environment, you can potentially recover Workers’ Compensation benefits for that loss. However, these cases can be quite difficult to prove, given the fact that hearing loss can be caused by many things, including medical conditions, medications, and environmental factors outside of work.

If you have difficulty hearing sounds such as the television across the room when its volume is normal for other people, or conversations with background noise such that you may engage in during a conversation over dinner at a restaurant, you should get your hearing tested by a medical professional. If there is a confirmed loss of hearing, it may be related to where you work, depending on your job. The best decision to make is to contact a Workers’ Compensation lawyer with experience in handling work-related hearing loss cases. You want a lawyer and law firm that has the knowledge, skills, and resources to fight for your rights to receive fair compensation for your hearing loss.

How Much Hearing Loss Do You Need to File a Claim?

Before you can file a claim for work-related hearing loss, the loss must be at a certain level and confirmed by a specific hearing loss test. A worker with a small amount of hearing loss will not be able to be compensated. First, the injured employee must go through audiometric testing to determine thresholds of hearing, in decibels, for the frequencies of 500, 1,000, 2,000, and 3,000 hertz. If the average hearing loss in the four frequencies is 25 decibels or less, the covered employee does not have compensable hearing loss, even if it is clear that the hearing loss was caused by working conditions. If the hearing loss in the four frequencies is 91.7 decibels or more, the covered employee has 100 percent compensable hearing loss. If the hearing loss is anywhere between 25 decibels and 91.7 decibels, the Workers’ Compensation Commission will determine the amount of benefits that should be paid. As detailed in the Maryland Workers’ Compensation law, specifically, for every decibel that the average hearing loss exceeds 25 decibels, the covered employee shall be allowed 1.5 percent of the compensable hearing loss, up to a maximum of 100 percent compensable hearing loss at 91.7 decibels. 

There is also a specific calculation outlined in the law to calculate binaural hearing loss, or hearing loss in both ears combined. Also, when doing the testing and calculations, the law states: Consideration may not be given to whether the use of an amplification device improves the ability of a covered employee to understand speech or enhance behavioral hearing thresholds. Further, you will receive these benefits regardless of whether the hearing loss prevents you from working or not. The benefits are not based on loss of work.

The Issue of Multiple Employers

A question arises about what to do when there are potentially multiple employers that could be held responsible for the hearing loss. In most cases, the most recent employer will usually be held responsible for the hearing loss. However, there are some cases in which there could be two or more different employers involved. Take, for example, an employee who worked in a loud production plant for a decade, then switched jobs to a loud foundry and worked there for several years before having his hearing tested. Theoretically, the foundry employer could submit evidence and attempt to claim the first employer should be at least partially responsible for some of the hearing loss experienced by the employee. 

If, at the time of the hearing loss testing, you were currently working for two employers and you were exposed to loud noises at both jobs, both employers would be made part of the claim and both would be able to submit evidence and argue that they are not responsible. It would be up to the Workers’ Compensation Commission to determine what percentage each employer would have to pay in hearing loss benefits.

Time Frame for Filing a Hearing Loss Claim

There is a time limit for which you can file a hearing loss claim under Maryland’s Workers’ Compensation law. The basic time frame for filing a claim for Workers’ Compensation is two years from when the employee was told they suffered from hearing loss that was caused by their work environment. However, with hearing loss cases, this becomes somewhat complicated. That is why it is important to get experienced legal counsel to advise you on what to do as soon as you even think you may be suffering from work-related hearing loss. But if it has been two years and you have not filed a claim, you may not be out of luck. Several factors could allow you to file a hearing loss claim beyond the two years. For instance, when was your hearing loss test, and what level was the loss? Did your doctor tell you some portion or all the hearing loss was caused by work? Or was the issue of work-related hearing loss never discussed at all? Depending on the answers to these questions, a skilled lawyer may be able to file a valid hearing loss claim even beyond the time limitations of two years.

Workplace Hearing Testing Programs

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide adequate hearing protection and hearing testing protocols to protect their employees. OSHA has specific standards of when noise levels in a work environment justify the use of hearing protection. If an employer does not adhere to these standards and provide the proper hearing protection for their employees, the employer can be fined by OSHA. Employers are required to establish and maintain an audiometric testing program for all employees whose exposures equal or exceed an eight-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels. These tests are to be free for the employees. Audiometric tests shall be performed by a licensed or certified audiologist, otolaryngologist, or other physician; or by a technician who is certified by the Council of Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation; or who has satisfactorily demonstrated competence in administering audiometric examinations, obtaining valid audiograms, and properly using, maintaining, and checking calibration and proper functioning of the audiometers being used. Further, employers are required to establish a baseline audiogram of an employee who has been exposed to loud noises, as defined by OSHA standards, no later than six months from the first exposure. This baseline audiogram can be used and compared with later audiograms. 

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Fight for Clients with Work-Related Hearing Loss

Suffering from hearing loss can be a very difficult thing to handle. If the hearing loss was in any way related to your job and the noises you are subjected to at your workplace, you could potentially recover hearing loss benefits through Workers’ Compensation. The Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton have decades of experience in holding employers responsible for their employees’ work-related injuries. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online

Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.