What Is My Hearing Loss Worth?
Hearing loss tends to creep up on people. You might have trouble hearing your spouse while dining in a crowded restaurant. It may be tricky to get the volume just right on the TV. You might ask your kids to speak up more often or repeat themselves. While hearing loss is a common part of aging, it’s also a common occupational injury, usually occurring after years of noise exposure. According to the CDC, 12 percent of the U.S. working population has hearing difficulty.
Hearing loss is serious. It’s irreversible, and because it makes communicating more challenging, it may lead to depression, isolation and, eventually, cognitive decline, according to the Mayo Clinic.
So in what industries is hearing loss most likely to occur, and is occupational hearing loss covered by workers’ comp in Georgia?
The causes of hearing loss at work
Occupational hearing loss occurs across industries, but it’s especially common in construction, agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing, mining, transportation and retail.
The threshold for excessive noise begins at 85 decibels. That’s equal to city traffic or a school cafeteria. Georgia’s threshold for excessive occupational noise is 90 decibels. A motorcycle is about 95 decibels, while a chainsaw or jackhammer is 110—the same as a concert. Gunshots and firecrackers can hit as high as 165 decibels—volumes excessive enough to immediately and permanently damage hearing.
Working with ototoxic chemicals is also a risk. These chemicals, including solvents; metals, like lead or mercury; asphyxiates and nitriles can directly cause hearing loss or make workers more susceptible to excessive noise.
What to do if you have occupational hearing loss
If you leave work with a ringing in your ears or temporarily can’t hear, you may have hearing loss. If you’re having trouble keeping up with conversations—especially those that take place in a crowded area—that’s also a sign that it’s time to see a doctor. Your physician will likely refer you to an audiologist. While hearing loss is irreversible, a doctor can help you avoid future damage.
Six months after exposure to harmful noise, Georgia allows you to file a workers’ comp claim. The code defines occupational hearing loss as the permanent loss of hearing in both ears caused by prolonged exposure to harmful noise in employment. If your hearing loss can be definitively connected to your work, you’re entitled to compensation based on 66 2/3 percent of your average weekly pay. Total occupational loss of hearing may entitle you to 150 weeks of compensation. A Macon workers’ comp lawyer can discuss options with you and walk you through the steps you’ll need to take.
How to avoid occupational hearing loss
Workers’ comp claims involving hearing loss can be challenging. The insurance company may try to argue that your hearing loss was caused by something else, like a hobby. A Macon workers’ compensation attorney can help make the case that your hearing loss is directly related to your occupational risk.
It’s also important to remember that occupational hearing loss is avoidable. Your employer should limit your time in high-decibel areas and provide environmental controls to contain loud sounds. You should also use hearing protection devices when necessary.
Talk to a Macon workers’ comp lawyer today
If you’ve experienced occupational hearing loss, you may need help getting the payments you deserve through workers’ compensation. The Macon workers’ comp attorneys at Buzzell, Welsh & Hill will help ensure your case is handled fairly. Contact us for a free consultation today or call (478) 217-2072.