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Loss of Hearing as an Occupational Disease

Occupational hearing loss is a prevalent condition in workers employed in noisy environments such as factories and repair shops. Several states recognize the gradual loss of hearing as a compensable condition and such recognition has also taken place under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Generally, a six-month waiting period is required prior to the filing of a hearing loss claim, and the employee must be removed from the noisy environment for that time frame. The degree of impairment is generally based on speech frequencies with points ranging between total deafness and no compensable deafness. The improvement in hearing with the use of a hearing aid is not accounted for.

In evaluating compensability for hearing loss, most states attempt to account for prior hearing loss. Prior hearing loss can result from age, illness, and the like. Additionally, it could come from an occupational setting such as work for an earlier employer. In some states, the age factor is addressed by deducting a percentage of the hearing loss for each year over an established age. The states have approached prior occupational hearing loss in varying ways such as 1) allowing the current employer to avoid liability by proving the loss predated the current employment, 2) allowing current employers to seek contribution from prior employers for prior loss, and 3) treating the prior hearing loss as a preexisting injury, with the burden being borne by a second-injury fund.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.