Hearing loss is not just age-related. Occupational Hearing Loss (OHL) is one of the most common occupational diseases in the United States. Occasionally, chemical or toxic exposure causes OHL. In almost all cases, excessive noise causes this occupational disease.
It does not take much noise to cause hearing loss. Occupational Safety and Health Administration sound regulations begin at 85 decibels. To put that number in perspective, garbage disposals and hair dryers generate about 90 decibels of sound, which can cause permanent hearing loss in just two hours.
Legally, an occupational disease is any job-related condition, like OHL or joint pain, which occurs over the course of more than one shift. A Rockford workers’ compensation attorney can obtain needed compensation in these cases – as if they were falls or other traumatic injuries.
OHL and the Delayed Discovery Rule
At first, hearing loss is barely noticeable. For example, OHL victims must turn up the TV volume. Unfortunately, these self-help remedies often make the problem worse. Later, as their hearing deteriorates, they finally see doctors for their condition. By that time, the claims deadline has already passed.
Fortunately, the delayed discovery rule protects victims in cases like these. Generally, there is no need to file a workers’ compensation claim until victims understand the full extent of their injuries and they connect those issues to workplace conditions.
So, on a practical level, if a doctor says your hearing loss may be connected to your job, file a claim straightaway. You can always withdraw the claim later, if needed.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits Available in Rockford
If caught early enough, hearing loss is relatively easy to treat. A variety of hearing aids are available. But if the damage gets worse and affects the eardrum, no hearing aid can help. Surgery may be an option in some cases.
Both advanced hearing aids and specialized medical treatment are quite costly. Fortunately, Illinois workers’ compensation benefits include payment of all reasonably necessary medical expenses. That includes treatment, medical devices, physical therapy and all other such costs.
Additionally, many OHL victims must leave their current professions and find other, lower-paying occupations – at least until they find the right combination of hearing aids and medical treatment. Workers’ compensation usually pays two-thirds of the difference between the old and new salaries during temporary disability periods.
If the disability is permanent, as is often the case in OHL claims, workers’ compensation usually provides a lump sum payout. The sum varies, according to the nature and extent of the disability.
Keep in mind the “disability” is not just a medical term. There are other implications as well. For example, moderate hearing loss may not be disabling for a writer. But for a teacher, that loss could be devastating.
What if I Have a Pre-Existing Condition?
To avoid paying benefits, many workers’ compensation insurance companies claim hearing loss is not OHL but related to a non-occupational cause.
In these situations, maximum benefits are generally still available. The victim must simply show the work environment made the underlying hearing loss worse. Rockford workers’ compensation attorneys usually partner with physicians to obtain the necessary evidence.
Count on Aggressive Attorneys
Job-related hearing loss victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Rockford, contact Fisk & Monteleone, Ltd. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.