If you have become aware of a problem with your hearing, you might be a victim of occupational hearing loss. If you think only older people experience hearing loss, you are mistaken. Excessive noise in workplaces causes hearing loss in millions of people of all ages nationwide, including in Pennsylvania. Frequent exposure to damaging noise levels of 85 decibels or higher can adversely affect your ability to hear.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to provide earplugs or earmuffs to protect workers in environments where noise levels reach or exceed 85 dB. Furthermore, the Americans with Disabilities Act makes it mandatory for employers to accommodate employees with hearing loss.
If you have hearing loss, communicating with coworkers and following your supervisor’s directions might become challenging. Hearing only part of a supervisor’s orders can limit your ability to perform tasks without making mistakes, which could threaten the safety of yourself and other workers. In environments in which power tools, heavy machinery or vehicle noises are excessive, you might not hear the sound of an audible alarm to warn you of imminent danger.
Prevention of occupational hearing loss
If you work in a noisy environment that caused damage to your hearing, you are not likely to be the only one. Your coworkers face the same hazard, and possibly the same consequences. A smart employer will recognize the damage a work crew with limited hearing can cause the bottom line, and he or she might follow OSHA’s guidelines to protect employees’ hearing in the following ways:
- Be selective by choosing tools, equipment and machinery with limited noise levels.
- When possible, install sound curtains or walls between noise sources and workers.
- Schedule frequent maintenance to ensure properly lubricated machinery.
- Create a firm schedule that will limit each employee’s exposure to the noise source.
- If practically possible, limit the use of excessively loud equipment to shifts with fewer employees.
- Provide employees with a quiet area to take breaks away from the noise to recharge and relax.
Even if your work environment is free of heavy, noisy machinery, you could still be at risk of hearing loss. Offices or call centers with open-concept floor plans can expose you to the constant ringing of telephones, the voices of coworkers, printer noise and more. Preventative measures by employers can include high-walled cubicles, adding sound-absorbing ceiling and wall panels, and soundproof insulation for offices that are on busy roads.
The challenge of claiming compensation
Although the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation insurance program covers occupational hearing loss, you might have a tough time proving that your work environment caused your condition. This is where the skills of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney come in. A lawyer can navigate your initial benefits claim, or take the necessary steps to appeal a claim that was previously rejected. The aim will be to obtain fair compensation to cover medical expenses and lost wages.