When an injury results from a sudden accident in the workplace, it is relatively obvious that the injury was job-related and that you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, with other types of injuries, it may be more challenging to receive benefits for your medical care, income replacement, and/or disability. One such complicated job-related injury is hearing loss. Hearing loss can occur naturally during the course of life, so New Jersey law sets out strict criteria for when hearing loss is covered by workers’ compensation.
Hearing Loss by Accident
While hearing loss is often a gradual process over time, some people can experience a condition called sudden sensorineural hearing loss, which occurs in a very short period of time and often immediately. The two main causes of this sudden hearing loss that can occur in the workplace include:
- Acoustic trauma — This can occur from being too close to an explosion, gunfire, blasting, or another exceptionally loud noise that damages the ear;
- Head trauma — head injuries from motor vehicles accidents, falls, or getting hit by an object can cause damage neurological pathways from the brain to the ear that causes sudden hearing loss.
In the above cases, hearing loss can be considered an injury in a workplace accident and you can be entitled to benefits.
Hearing Loss as an Occupational Disease
Other types of hearing loss develop over time and can be considered by the workers’ compensation system to be an occupational disease instead of an accidental injury. In order for hearing loss to qualify as an occupational disease, the victim must have been subject to noise that is the following:
- Habitual — happens at least 40 weeks annually for three or more days a week
- Prolonged — exposure to job noise lasts for one year or more
- Hazardous — exceeds the the amount of daily noise exposure allowed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
If you meet the above criteria, you will have to undergo specific tests to determine the severity of your hearing loss, which will decide the amount of benefits to which you are entitled.
Jobs that Commonly result in Hearing Loss
There are many different jobs in which hearing loss is a common condition. Some of these include:
- Air traffic controller or flight crew due to jet engines
- Construction worker due to jackhammers and other loud power tools
- Musicians–especially rock musicians–due to close proximity to speakers and amplifiers
- Logger because of chainsaw noise
- Emergency medical technician due to ambulance sirens
- Factory worker due to the noise from large pieces of machinery
- Bartenders or bouncers because of loud music and crowds
Contact a NJ Workers’ Compensation Attorney for Assistance
If you have sustained hearing loss as a result of your job, proving that you deserve workers’ compensation benefits New Jersey law can be complicated. The experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at the Wilton Law Firm can help you throughout the application process and can represent you if an appeal is necessary. We strive for the maximum possible benefits for you, so please call today at 732-275-9555 to discuss your case.