Hearing impairment due to occupational noise: points to consider

Workers in Pennsylvania who have been exposed to hazardous occupational noise for a long period of time are at high risk of developing hearing problems. In many cases, the hearing problem may also amount to permanent hearing loss. That disability is covered by worker's compensation; however, there are certain factors that the victims should keep in mind before filing for compensation.

First, the percentage of impairment is calculated using a formula provided in the Impairment guides. Second, the compensation amount and the period for which the compensation will be paid are decided upon. The compensation amount is usually more than 66 percent of the worker's weekly wages.

Before a claim for compensation is accepted, the impaired worker may have to prove the impairment medically. For impairments that are caused by traumatic head injury or some other factor and are not due to exposure to occupational noises, the percentage of impairment is calculated by using the formulas provided in the Impairment guides. In this case, the compensation amount is more than 66 percent of the worker's weekly wage. The same formula also helps to determine the period for which the compensation will be paid.

The percentage of impairment and the compensation that may be paid in lieu of that are established by the audiogram. The audiometric test reports should comply with the standard set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA. Employers may also request that the employee undergoes an audiometric test periodically, the expenses for which should be paid by the employer.

The employee who undergoes the test should receive the reports and explanation of the results within 30 days from the date of test. If employees refuse to take this test, they may lose their right to file a complaint against the employer in the event of occupational hearing impairment.

An employer can be held liable for such cases only if the employee has suffered hearing impairment as a result of exposure to occupational noise. If a non-occupational impairment or a previous impairment is detected at the time of the interview or before the appointment, the employer may not be held responsible. However, it may be advisable to consult an attorney to understand the worker's compensation eligibility rules more clearly.

Source: State.pa.us, "Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act," Accessed on July 27, 2015

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