As a type of insurance, workers’ compensation helps pay for the medical costs of an employee who has suffered a work-related injury or illness and wages lost due to impairment. You might think that compensation only applies to visible ailments, such as broken bones, cuts, lost fingers or limbs and so on. But the insurance also covers medical conditions that aren’t immediately apparent, like occupational hearing loss.
Occupational hearing loss is a real issue in workplaces with dangerously high sound levels, such as airport runways, construction sites and mining facilities. But when filing a claim for work-related deafness, exactly how much in benefits will you receive? How will medical experts gauge your hearing loss?
Measuring occupational hearing loss
When you file a claim for occupational hearing loss, you must participate in a specialized deafness test. The test takes place in a sound room designed to measure deafness, where doctors will ask you to wear earphones connected to an audiometric instrument. Personnel will then measure your hearing thresholds at 500, 1,000, 2,000, and 3,000-hertz frequencies. These results and an exam by an otolaryngologist (ENT) specialist will be determinative of the causal relationship between the hearing loss and the employee’s occupation.
From these results, the medical providers will calculate your average hearing loss by a complicated formula found in the Maryland Workers’ Compensation statute. If after the calculation is done you have a hearing loss above the statutory threshold, you will be entitled to compensation for this hearing loss in accordance with the statute. You will also be entitled to coverage by the Workers’ Compensation Insurer for the cost of future hearing exams and hearing aids, if necessary.
The doctors will also calculate the percentage of hearing loss in both ears and determine if you have a compensable loss in both ears or only one ear.
Your employer is liable for the full extent of occupational hearing loss you’ve suffered and must pay the percentage in benefits. However, your employer can also contest the claim and only pay for the hearing loss it says it’s liable for if it can present evidence – such as the results of a previous hearing test – proving your hearing loss before employment. Your employer may also reject your claim completely asserting that your hearing loss was not caused by your work with the employer.
Whether your employer denies your claim or asserts it’s only partially liable, you can request a hearing with Maryland’s Workers’ Compensation Commission. As noted above, proving an occupational hearing loss is complicated. Having legal counsel with you when determining whether to pursue an occupational hearing loss or requesting a hearing may be helpful.