Loud noises and trauma may cause damage to your ears and result in tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or hearing loss. While many people can manage their hearing loss with medical treatment and hearing aids, others have disabling injuries. If your hearing loss was caused by your work or a personal injury, you may be entitled to compensation.
What if You Lost Your Hearing as a Result of a Work-Related Injury?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hearing loss is the most common work-related injury in America. Work-related hearing loss is typically covered by workers’ compensation benefits. Mining, construction, and manufacturing workers are most at risk of work-related hearing loss.
In order to receive workers’ comp, you must show that your hearing loss was caused by work (and not other non-occupational factors). You do not have to suffer a single accident—hearing loss is often caused by ongoing or cumulative exposure to noise.
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. In most states, failure to use ear protection is not a defense. However, some states do reduce a worker’s benefits if he or she did not use protective devices.
Under workers’ compensation law, you should receive reasonable and necessary medical treatment for your hearing loss. This includes the cost of doctor’s appointments, diagnostic testing, hearing aids, and other appropriate treatment. In some states, you will receive lifetime coverage of your hearing-related medical expenses.
You may also receive a wage loss or disability benefit if your hearing loss prevents you from working. Wage loss benefits are calculated differently from state to state. They are often two-thirds your average weekly wage, but there may also be minimum or maximum benefits. If you meet your state’s requirements, you may be entitled to lifetime wage loss payments.
Finally, you may receive vocational assistance (such as job retraining) if your hearing loss is work-related. Most states offer vocational rehabilitation to disabled workers. Vocational rehab may involve job training, mentoring, and job search assistance.
What About Hearing Loss That Was Not Caused by Work?
There are also hearing loss-related personal injury claims. These claims involve negligence that resulted in physical trauma to the ear. You may have a personal injury claim if your hearing was damaged by:
- Airbag deployment,
- Sudden loud noises (like explosions caused by defective products or negligent behavior),
- Head trauma,
- Product liability for defective hearing protection, and
- Medical malpractice.
There have also been lawsuits filed alleging liability related to excessively loud concerts, rallies, and other public events. These entertainment-based lawsuits have had varying success.
However, it may be more difficult to win a personal injury claim involving hearing loss. While workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, personal injury claims must have evidence of negligence or liability. Additionally, the defendant may offer various defenses, such as:
- Assumption of risk,
- Contributory or comparative negligence (for example, a failure to wear ear protection), and
- Causation (alleging that the hearing loss was caused by other factors).
If you need help assessing the strength of your hearing loss claim, contact a personal injury lawyer for assistance.
What Type of Damages Would Be Awarded?
Again, your damages may vary depending on whether or not your claim is work-related. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system that awards specific benefits, including necessary medical treatment, wage loss benefits, and vocational benefits (like job retraining). In a workers’ compensation case, you cannot receive compensation for your pain and suffering.
If you hearing loss was non-occupational, you may recover:
Your damages may vary, depending on the severity of your injuries, the cost of your medical care, your ability to return to work, and the strength of your liability claim.
Should I Speak with a Hearing Loss Lawyer?
Yes. An employment lawyer or workers’ compensation lawyer can help you evaluate your claim and guide you through the claims process. Hearing loss claims may require the detailed analysis of medical and technical information and the use of expert witnesses and independent medical examiners. A lawyer can ensure that your claim is well-developed and ready for trial.