Workers who suffer hearing loss as a result of their employment are entitled to North Carolina workers' compensation. Our workers' comp lawyers in Raleigh have represented workers who have experienced tinnitus and other hearing impairments as a result of their employment in construction, warehouses, and other areas where work site noise exposure is high and adequate hearing protection was not provided.
Hearing loss injuries are quite different than other work-related injuries. When someone suffers a slip-and-fall injury at work in North Carolina, it is fairly simple to identify immediate injuries that resulted from the fall. Hearing loss injuries are not detected as quickly. Prolonged exposure to loud noises accrued over time may develop after a worker switches jobs or retires. Some employees suffer hearing damage from an explosion.
What can prevent an injured worker from receiving North Carolina workers' comp benefits? If the employer provided hearing protection devices (ear muffs or ear plugs) and the employee failed to use them. Employers are responsible for providing sufficient ear protection for workers who will be in an environment with loud noise. Our workers' comp lawyers in Raleigh advise injured workers during consultations that they are not able to file a North Carolina workers' compensation claim for hearing loss until six months after the last exposure to the harmful noise.
How is hearing loss identified under North Carolina workers' comp?
- Hearing loss caused by sustained loud noises at a place of employment is considered an occupational disease. Permanent impairment in both ears qualifies the worker for 150 weeks of recovery. (2/3 of the average weekly wage multiplied by 150.)
- Hearing loss as a result of an accidental injury qualifies the worker for 70 weeks of workers' compensation benefits as recovery for total loss of hearing in one ear. (150 weeks of benefits for total hearing loss in both ears.)
- Occupational hearing loss compensation will only be awarded if the worker experiences hearing loss in both ears, except when the worker had a pre-existing hearing loss due to non-work-related causes.
Hearing loss may be a slow process. Employees who have worked or currently work around loud machinery should be aware of the symptoms associated with loss of hearing.
Signs of hearing loss:
- Pain in ears
- Constant ringing
- Talking loudly during conversations (other people tell you to speak softer)
- Asking other people to repeat themselves or to talk louder