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Hearing loss caused by work injury may be compensable

A recent study reaffirms that frequent exposure to loud noise at work can result in hearing loss. Furthermore, those who work with hearing loss are at a disadvantage: they are more inclined to become hospitalized because of a work injury. The sampling of 46,550 male workers over a 20-year period makes the results of the study generally applicable to workers in Colorado and nationwide.

One obvious hazard for workers is that those who suffer from permanent hearing loss are generally less able to perceive impending dangers at work. Especially in the industrial and construction trades, physical injury and safety are risked by workers with significant hearing impairments. Another interesting finding was that workers exposed to sound levels above 100 decibels had 2.4 times the chance of being hospitalized in a work injury than those who were not exposed at all.

The study implies that employers and employees should take extra efforts to identify the occurrence of hearing loss situations, such as working near or on loud machines. In appropriate situations, earplugs or other protectors may be safely worn to prevent continued hearing loss. Furthermore, non-verbal safety signals should be developed to assist those with hearing problems to avoid work injury.

More than that, unions and individual workers should promote the regular monitoring of hearing levels in workers with jobs prone to causing hearing losses. Most workers' compensation statutes provide for compensation for severe hearing loss. Those who can medically establish that they were injured during employment can collect benefits for severe work-related hearing loss. Generally, physicians will verify the work-related cause based on the patient's given history of suffering loud noises at work.

In Colorado and other states, it's generally best to consult with workers' compensation counsel prior to engaging with the employer regarding refusals to recognize and compensate work injury hearing losses. The effort may benefit by coordination with the treating physician. Furthermore, the claim form may need to be worded appropriately to protect the worker's rights under the workers' compensation law.

Source: Fashion Times, "Loud Noises at Work Increases Risk of Injury, Study Shows", Emmanuel Barrios, April 3, 2014

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