Hearing Loss Claims and Compensation in Virginia
Many employees are unsure whether hearing loss entitles them to workers’ compensation. In Virginia, hearing loss can be compensable, provided the employee can show convincing evidence that it was caused by their work. Here’s what you need to know about claiming workers’ comp for hearing loss, and how much you may receive for it in Virginia. For legal advice on your specific case, consult a trusted workers’ comp attorney.
Claiming Workers’ Compensation for Hearing Loss
In Virginia, if you are seeking workers’ compensation for hearing loss, you must establish two things: 1) that you have an “average decibel loss” of 27 or more, and 2) that this hearing loss occurred because of your work and while you were at work.
To determine your decibel loss, you’ll need to get an assessment from an audiologist. The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission requires that this assessment be done without using a hearing aid, and with a pure-tone audiometer only by air conduction.
To establish the cause of your hearing loss, it’s wise to get the assistance of an attorney. Job-related hearing loss can occur as an injury or as a disorder that develops over time. Either way, it can be compensable. Examples of hearing loss causes at work are:
- Noise exposure – This can be a brief but intense exposure to a loud sound, or a long-term, consistent exposure to loud sounds. Employees are particularly at risk to this if they work with or near power tools, heavy machinery, explosions, gunfire, and loud music. A recent study from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health found that the highest risk for this is in the mining, construction, and manufacturing sectors.
- Ototoxic exposure – Ototoxic chemicals are those that damage the ear when they are inhaled, ingested, or get in contact with the skin. Examples are carbon monoxide, mercury compounds, hydrogen cyanide, and lead. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), some industries that are more likely to have ototoxicants are manufacturing, mining, utilities, agriculture, and construction.
- Head trauma – A violent blow to the head can lead to hearing problems like tinnitus and hearing loss. In some cases, the problem is mechanical, like a torn eardrum or a dislodged ear bone. Other times, the impact causes a traumatic brain injury (TBI) where the auditory regions of the brain are damaged.
Having an attorney can be invaluable in a hearing loss claim. Even after you get an audiologist’s opinion, the workers’ comp insurance adjuster may argue their assessment. A competent lawyer can help you collect evidence and assert the extent and work-related nature of your hearing loss.
Workers’ Comp Amount for Hearing Loss in Virginia
How much worker’s comp can you receive for hearing loss? In Virginia, a worker’s comp award is 66 and 2/3 percent of the employee’s average weekly wage, but the duration depends on the severity of injury. For hearing loss, severity is measured in terms of average decibel loss.
The permanent and total hearing loss in one ear has a decibel loss of 90 and up, and has a compensation period of 50 weeks. For cases with lower decibel loss, the compensation period will only be a percentage of the 50 weeks. This percentage is dictated by the Workers’ Compensation Commission’s hearing loss table.
For example, if your average decibel loss is 50, the hearing loss table states that it is 38.3 percent compensable. You will get your compensation for 38.3 percent of the 50 weeks – that is, for 19.14 weeks or 134 days.
The calculation of hearing loss worker’s comp can get complicated, and insurance adjusters can make it more challenging for claimants. It’s best to have an experienced worker’s comp attorney on your side to advocate for the benefits you’re entitled to.
Talk to a Trusted Virginia Workers’ Comp Lawyer
Attorney Jaleh K. Slominski has earned the trust of Virginian workers for her skilled and fearless representation in workers’ comp cases. In the last 25+ years, Attorney Slominski has obtained favorable benefits for her clients even in complex injury cases and in the face of seasoned insurance companies.
Talk to Jaleh Slominski about your hearing loss at work. Call our Lynchburg office at (434) 384-9400 or her Roanoke office at (540) 554-3762.