I Wish I Could Hear You…

22 million American workers suffer partial or total permanent hearing loss on the job each year, making this condition the most common workplace injury claim.

The number of claims – which come largely from construction, manufacturing, and mining operations – cost an estimated $242 million per year, according to the Department of Labor. In response, the government has launched an aggressive educational campaign designed to help employers know about available noise-reduction technologies. However, critics say that poor regulation, and not technological underutilization, is to blame. They want the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to update its maximum noise-exposure workplace injury rules to more accurately reflect current conditions and also account for exposure to non-work noise that adds to the cumulative exposure risk. OSHA says that it is considering such actions.

55-year-old Jeff Ammon has not worked since 2011 because of “debilitating” hearing loss. In addition to chronic and severe ear pain, he is clinically depressed because his social interaction level is almost non-existent. He says that both employers and the government are to blame for the problem, because workplace safety “costs money” and the regulations are “just not enforced.”

Workplace Injuries

Hearing loss is a very good example of the compensable injuries under workers’ compensation. This no-fault insurance provides cash benefits that compensate victims for their economic losses, including lost wages and medical bills. Some typical workplace injuries include:

  • Trauma Injuries: Construction workers, miners, and other workers are often exposed to loud explosions and other sudden noises that can essentially rupture eardrums even if the workers are at distance and wearing some protective items.
  • Occupational Disease: These same workers also operate near jackhammers, manufacturing machinery, and other devices that are not loud enough to trigger a trauma injury, but over time, they have a degenerative effect on the workers’ ears.

Under the aggravation rule, if a workplace injury and non-workplace injury combine to form a disability, the entire condition is compensable. Assume Wendy Worker is at a loud construction site by day and works security for a local concert venue on the weekends. Theoretically, either the builder or security company could be responsible for her damages.

If the injury was intentional, which in this context means that the employer knowingly placed the employee in a dangerous situation, the victim might be able to sue outside workers’ compensation and recover damages for noneconomic losses, including pain and suffering.

At Hoffoss Devall, we fight for injured workers in Lake Charles. Contact us today for a free consultation, because you have a limited amount of time to act.