Workers' compensation: Hearing loss claim could be challenging

Federal safety authorities say millions of workers nationwide, including some in California, are exposed to excessive occupational noise every year. While there are strict limits to the decibel levels that are allowed and the hours of exposure, not all employers comply with the safety regulations. Those could also be the employers who might want to prevent affected workers from claiming workers' compensation benefits for employees who suffered occupational hearing loss.

Safety regulations mandate that average noise levels should not exceed 85 decibels over eight-hour shifts. Furthermore, employers must be proactive in protecting employees. Facilities with high noise levels must establish Hearing Conservation Programs that measure and manage noise levels. They must also offer employees free hearing tests at least once a year along with free ear protection.

Hearing loss can be caused by long-term exposure to excessive noise, a single traumatic incident like an explosion or by ototoxic chemical exposure. These are all occupational illnesses that could cause permanent disabilities; however, they are entirely preventable. Only the traumatic hearing loss seems to pose little problems when benefits claims are filed. Both occupational and chemical exposure cause gradual hearing loss, which is more challenging to prove as being work-related.

In such claims, the affected worker's claim of noise exposure, corroborated by a doctor's report, must be sufficient to validate the claim. California workers in such situations might find comfort in knowing that an attorney who is experienced in dealing with workers' compensation benefits claims can assist throughout the proceedings. The goal will be to obtain coverage of medical expenses and lost wages, but a lawyer can also help with an appeal if the claim is denied.

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