Loud noise in the workplace can make it difficult to concentrate and communicate, reduce productivity, cause physical and mental stress and contribute to on-the-job accidents and injuries. Short-term workplace exposure to loud noise can cause temporary changes to hearing, while long-term exposure to high noise levels can cause permanent hearing loss.
Hearing loss is one of the more common types of work-related injuries or illnesses. Many cases of hearing loss caused by harmful noise exposures on job sites and in workplaces occur over long periods of time.
Employees in Oklahoma whose injuries developed gradually through long-term exposure may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, including the cost of hearing aids when necessary. Worker’s compensation is insurance carried by most employers in Oklahoma. It provides benefits to employees who suffer work-related injuries and illnesses including hearing loss.
How Work-Related Hearing Loss Can Occur
Workers in noisy factories, on construction sites, in oil and gas production and in other industries may be subjected to constant noise or repeated loud noises.
Sound is measured in decibels (dB). The higher the decibel level, the more likely the sound is to cause harm. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, noise around 85 decibels —which is loud enough to require you to raise your voice to be heard by someone at arm’s length—can damage hearing with repeated exposures of eight hours or longer.
Bulldozers, chainsaws, sirens, and bars and nightclubs are all louder than 95 decibels. If workers are not wearing proper ear protection, this level of noise can be harmful and cause inner ear damage and noise-induced hearing loss. Loud noise can cause ringing or roaring in the ears, a condition known as tinnitus. Hearing loss is preventable with proper noise protection.
The signs that your workplace or job site may be too noisy include:
- Having to shout to be heard by a co-worker standing at arm’s length
- Experiencing ringing or humming in your ears when you leave work
- Having some temporary hearing loss when you leave work.
Construction work often involves exposure to loud noises. Many construction workers have hearing loss at a younger age than the general population.
Hearing loss also is the most commonly recorded occupational illness in the manufacturing industries, which include wood products, primary metals, fabricated metals, furniture, and chemical manufacturers.
Oklahoma oilfield workers who work around oil wells or drilling rigs are exposed to high noise levels and heavy machinery noise and are at risk of hearing loss. Oilfield workers should wear hearing protection devices.
Hearing loss often occurs gradually, starting with the loss of hearing high-pitched sounds. It can affect one ear or both ears. Sounds may become muffled or distorted. You may experience buzzing or roaring in your ears. You may disregard the hearing loss until it becomes more obvious. Eventually, it may be difficult for a worker to hear the world around them, making conversation and work difficult.
An employee who sustains partial or total permanent hearing loss due to workplace noise in Oklahoma may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
Receiving Medical Care/Seeing an Audiologist
If you are experiencing hearing loss, you should report the condition and see a doctor. You may be referred by your doctor to an audiologist for a hearing test. An audiologist is a health care specialist trained to do a diagnostic evaluation of hearing and balance disorders. Audiologists often work in conjunction with ear, nose and throat doctors to diagnose hearing loss and treat patients.
When you are evaluated for hearing loss, you will undergo a series of tests over a period of time to determine the extent of the impairment and your ability to understand speech. Whether your hearing impairment is due to long-term exposure or one intense incident such an explosion, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
A workers’ compensation claim will need to show the extent of your permanent hearing loss, using medically recognized clinical diagnostic tests such as audiological tests that measure air and bone conduction thresholds and ability to distinguish speech. Having detailed medical evidence is critical to a workers’ compensation claim.
How Much Are Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Hearing Loss in Oklahoma?
In Oklahoma, an employee who suffers work-related hearing loss may be eligible for permanent partial impairment benefits. A worker who has permanent hearing loss shall receive permanent partial disability compensation based on a benefits schedule. The benefit is calculated at 70 percent of the employee’s average weekly wage, capped at a maximum of $323, multiplied by 110 weeks for hearing loss in one ear, or by 330 weeks for loss of hearing in both ears. Sometimes, this amount is paid in one lump sum payment rather than in weekly amounts.
You may be eligible for a hearing aid benefit through the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Program.
You may be is eligible to collect workers’ compensation benefits for hearing loss regardless of whether you are able to return to your job.
Schedule a Free Case Review with an OK Workers’ Comp Attorney About Hearing Loss
Because hearing loss often occurs gradually rather than as a result of a specific incident, employers are more likely to question whether the loss is related to work. You may have a disputed workers’ compensation claim. If your employer is contesting your right to workers’ compensation benefits for occupational hearing loss, it is important to talk with a knowledgeable Oklahoma workers’ compensation lawyer.
The Oklahoma work injury attorneys at Ryan Bisher Ryan & Simons have helped many workers with work-related injuries and illnesses obtain benefits. Our attorneys can review the details of your hearing loss and discuss your options to pursue workers’ compensation benefits. Our determined attorneys fight to help injured workers obtain the full benefits they are entitled to by law. We have handled thousands of workers’ compensation claims and have detailed knowledge of Oklahoma workers’ compensation law and workers’ rights. Contact us today to arrange your free initial consultation at our Oklahoma City office.