Proving Hearing Loss Related to Noise Exposure at Work
Hearing loss is a common form of an occupational disease workers' compensation claim. The term "occupational disease" simply means that is develops over time as opposed to acutely from one accident.
The burden to prove an occupational disease falls on the injured worker in Oregon. The injured worker has to prove that his or her overall work activities are the major contributing cause of the occupational disease. In the case of hearing loss, this would mean the worker must prove his or her lifetime of employment was greater than 50 percent the cause of their hearing loss.
There are multiple factors that can cause hearing loss. First, is genetics or a family history. Second, are injuries or illnesses such as very high childhood fevers. Third, is normal aging. This is often called presbycusis which is the Latin term for "aging ear." Finally, exposure to loud noise can cause hearing loss. This is usually from gun use (target practice, hunting, or military experience), riding motorcycles, or from work exposure. There are many types of jobs that have very high noise exposure levels. Common ones include truck driving, welders, firemen, pilots, and metal fabricators.
If you think you have hearing loss related to exposure to loud noise at work, it is important to file your workers' compensation claim as soon as possible. The longer you wait the more likely it is that you will also have aging of the ears making it more difficult to prove that the majority of your hearing loss is related to work.
Responsibility and Hearing Loss Workers' Compensation Claims
Once you have filed your workers' compensation claim for hearing loss, the insurer will do one of several things They may accept the claim. Or, they may deny the claim. A denial can be for several reasons. The most common is called a compensability denial and is when the insurer is denying the claim because they do not think your hearing loss is related to your work exposure. But, they may also deny your workers' compensation claim because they do not think they are the insurer responsible for your hearing loss. In this scenario, the insurer is essentially acknowledging that your hearing loss is related to your employment, but they think a different insurer or employer should pay for it. This comes up quite often when an injured worker has worked for several different employers and had noise exposure at each job.
When this happens, you will need a workers' compensation attorney to help you file against the other employers and insurers and appeal your responsibility denial.
If you have any additional questions, or would like a free attorney consultation, call our office at 503-975-5575.