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Hearing Loss and Workers’ Compensation

Casey Woodruff

otoscopeWhen we stop to imagine common workplace injuries in Aurora, most of us probably think about back injuries, repetitive motion injuries, and injuries caused by slips and falls. However, there are, unfortunately, many ways that employees get hurt on the job. As it turns out, some of the most common employee injuries that result in workers’ compensation claims are not those that we are most likely to expect. According to a recent article in USA Today, the most common workplace injury in the U.S. is actually hearing loss.  Employees in a wide variety of jobs are required to be in positions in which they can risk injury to their ears.

Workplace-Related Hearing Loss is All Too Common in America

As the article explains, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites hearing loss as the most common injury that workers sustain at jobs across the United States. Indeed, around 22 million workers are “exposed annually to hazardous level of occupational noise,” and many of them are “likely to suffer from hearing impairment.” To give you a sense of the economic costs of hearing-related harms, the Department of Labor estimates that approximately “$242 million is spent on workers’ compensation annually for hearing loss disability.”

The article describes the experiences of one employee, a construction worker, who began experiencing ear pressure after work nearly a decade ago. His symptoms gradually worsened, and he began using ear protection on the job. However, at this late stage, the ear protection could not reverse the harm that had been done. Whenever he would hear seemingly minor sounds outside of work—such as interpersonal conversations or noises from a lawnmower—he would experience “a jabbing pain in his inner ear.” In addition to sharp pain, the former construction workers also experienced ringing in the ears and dizziness. He described the impact of his auditory damage as debilitating.

Preventing Auditory Damage on the Job

Among the most common jobs in which an employee can be at risk of hearing-related injuries and auditory damage are:

  • Mining sector;
  • Construction work; and
  • Manufacturing. 

What can we do to prevent hearing loss in these sectors and at other places of employment? According to the article, the U.S. Department of Labor is taking this issue very seriously and has developed a workplace challenged called “Hear and Now.” As part of this effort, the Department is “soliciting pitches for innovative ideas and technology to better alert workers of hazardous noise levels.

Employee safety advocates argue that we simply need revised sound-level regulations and better technology because current equipment at construction sites and other areas aimed at reducing auditory damage is outdated. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans to seek additional information concerning current regulations.

Contact an Aurora Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Many employees who suffer hearing loss, and who experience pain and suffering as a result of hearing problems, file successful workers’ compensation claims. To learn more about obtaining benefits, you should speak with an Aurora workers’ compensation attorney. An advocate at our firm can assist you today. Contact Woodruff Johnson & Evans to discuss your case.

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