Loud bangs and running motors can create loud sounds in acute spaces that can temporarily or permanently damage your hearing. People working in construction, mining, factories, or other industries where loud noises occur, are exposed to certain dangers when the decibels being produced go beyond 90dBA. Hearing loss or deafness can result from being exposed to loud sounds, vehicle accidents, not having the right protective equipment, or head injuries. Losing your hearing is like losing a hand or foot, it can prevent you from enjoying aspects of your professional and personal lifestyle. If you suffer from a work-related injury that has affected your hearing, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation insurance. In many cases, you should be able to claim medical benefits so that you receive immediate and appropriate medical attention.
In every successful workplace, communication across departments or between workers is essential for running the daily operations of the business. Workers in all industries heavily rely on their ability to communicate and relate information to other members of the workforce.
The Orange County Workers Compensation Attorney’s believe that hearing is an essential ability to the success of any one person. If you lose your ability to hear it may become difficult to communicate information and in many cases, you will be required to learn sign language. Under California state law, anyone suffering from a work-related injury that has led to hearing loss is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits that help cover medical bills and other recurring bills throughout the recovery process.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed regulations for loud workplaces so that employers understand how to prevent injuries that lead to hearing loss. If your employer violates any of the OSHA regulations which may lead to an unsafe working environment, you are entitled to call for OSHA inspections so that the situation is corrected. Furthermore, if you suffer a work-related injury including hearing loss, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. To learn more about the workers’ compensation claim process for an ear injury, please contact our offices at 949-423-3212. We are ready to address your concerns and provide reliable legal assistance whatever your case may be.
Your Ear and Types of Hearing Loss
Your ear, like any other body organ, has a multitude of moving parts that allow individuals to process sounds. The ear can be broken down into three parts that allow you to hear:
- The outer ear consists of the pinna, the ear canal, and the eardrum
- The pinna is the only visible part of the ear. The pinna acts as a sound catcher that funnels the sound down to the ear canal which is then received by the eardrum. Damaging the pinna can lead to slight hearing loss and without this organ, most sound would bypass the ear canal.
- The ear canal exists between the pinna and eardrum. The ear canal allows the sound received by the pinna to be transmitted to the eardrum. Without the ear canal, the sound transmitted to our pinna would not be amplified enough for humans to hear.
- The eardrum otherwise known as the tympanic membrane is located at the end of the ear canal and marks the end of the outer ear. The eardrum is very sensitive to sound and pressures that can puncture the soft tissue causing severe hearing loss.
- The middle ear consists of three important bones, the oval window, the round window, and the Eustachian tube.
- After sound reaches the eardrum, the vibrations are received by three bones in the middle ear: the malleus, the incus, and the stapes. These bones act as a bridge that transmits the vibrations to the oval window.
- The oval and round window work together to process the sounds into the inner ear. The oval and round window receive the sound from the eardrum which is then amplified before it reaches the inner ear
- The Eustachian tube has a very important function. Without the Eustachian tube, we would be unable to regulate the pressures that exist on either side of the eardrum. Without this tube, the ears would build different pressures throughout between the middle and inner ear which could cause the eardrum to burst.
- The inner ear consists of the cochlea, the vestibular, and the auditory nerve.
- The cochlea consists of a fluid called the perilymph and 24,000 hair fibers. The vibrations transmitted from the oval window are transmitted to the fluids in the cochlea. The hair fibers then transfer the vibrations to the auditory nerve.
- The auditory nerve works with the hair fibers in the cochlea to produce electrical pulses that are directed to the brain. The brain then puts meaning to the sounds we hear. Without the auditory nerve and the hair fibers in the cochlea, we would be unable to process sound altogether.
- The vestibular is located in the inner ear it is essential for performing different activities that require balance such as walking, jogging, sitting, and other common activities. The vestibular has its own set of hair fibers and fluids that processes your movements and allows the brain to send signals to keep your balance.
The ear is a very delicate and complex organ that does so much more than process sound. Damaging the soft tissues or other organs and structures in the ear can lead to many life complications including depression and other illnesses. There are two types of hearing losses that are attributed to the different parts of the ear. Keep in mind that the closer the damage gets to the inner ear, the more severe the consequences may be.
A conductive hearing loss is a complication that occurs in the outer and/or middle ear that prevents sound vibrations from reaching the inner ear. Some causes of conductive hearing loss include: infection which may cause inflammation in the outer ear, wax build up in the ear canal which prevents sound from reaching the eardrum, head injuries which may cause damage to the eardrum.
Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is a much more serious situation. When the cochlea is damaged you are unable to process vibrations to the auditory nerve which means you are unable to transmit information to the brain. The brain is responsible for decoding the sounds you hear meaning that any sensorineural hearing loss injury may result in your inability to process sounds and lead to deafness. The causes of sensorineural hearing loss include being exposed to loud sounds that damage the hair fibers in the cochlea, genetics, using certain over the counter drugs, or being exposed to diseases like multiple sclerosis, mumps, or Meniere's disease.
There are cases where both the inner, middle, and outer ear are damaged. Damage to the ear can lead to hearing loss beyond repair especially if the damage occurs in the cochlea. People who have lost their hearing have found surgical procedures or technological hearing aids that have given the person full or partial hearing. Depending on your case, hearing loss may require medical treatment that can be very expensive. If you experience hearing loss as a result of loud volumes at your workplace, you are capable of filing a workers’ compensation claim that can cover your medical treatment.
Filing a Workers Compensation Claim: Hearing Loss
Filing for workers’ compensation insurance is an easy process that was designed to give access to employees who suffer a work-related injury. In workers’ compensation law, the health and well-being of the employee are considered before any other factor. In the event of a work-related injury, workers’ compensation allows up to $10,000 dollars of medical coverage so that the employee does not have to think twice about going to the hospital for medical attention. The provisions that guide the workers’ compensation system is based largely on the “no-fault” policy which considers the health of the employee above all other factors. In a “no-fault” system the employer and employee give up the right to sue each other. The “no-fault” system allows the worker to focus on his or her injury without having to worry about filing a lawsuit against the employer for compensations.
Whenever you file a workers’ compensation claim you should feel 99% secure that your work-related injury will be covered either by medical or lost wages benefits or both. However, there are workers’ compensation claims that are denied if your employer and insurance company believe that the injury was a result of an outside of work factor or factors. For example, if you are suffering from a hearing condition, your employer or insurance company can claim the damage is a result of listening to loud music or other factors that are not related to the working conditions.
To avoid having your claim denied, the Orange County Workers’ Compensation Attorneys advise you to do the follow the next steps to complete a strong workers’ compensation claim:
- Immediately after you start noticing a loss of hearing, you should seek a medical professional that can provide written a proof of your condition.
- Request a workers’ compensation claim form (DWC 1) from your employer, fill out the employer section and return to your employer. He or she should then fill out the employer section and have it sent out to the insurance company immediately. The DWC 1 form can be requested from your employer or it can be found using the following link: www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/forms.html
- Gather all relative information about your injury. Include how your hearing was affected and gather the contact information of anyone that can testify on your behalf.
The insurance company should get back to your claim within 14 days with an approval or denial of your claim. If your insurance claim is denied, you should contact an attorney who can clarify why your claim was denied and then provide the next steps to have your claim re-evaluated. If your claim is denied it is usually because of lacking evidence. If you wish to contest your case, fill out the Application for Adjudication of Claim which can be found using the following link: www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/FORMS/EAMS%20Forms/ADJ/DWC1.pdf.
After you fill this application you should receive a case identification number. Once received you are ready to file the Declaration of Readiness to Proceed using the following link: www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/FORMS/EAMS%20Forms/ADJ/DWCCAForm10250_1.pdf.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) all employers are kept to a certain standard to ensure safe work habits are enforced and employees are kept safe. If you are working in a loud environment, your employer needs to provide you with equipment that will keep your hearing safe. Failing to provide adequate working conditions and equipment that will protect the individuals hearing, is a form of violation of OSHA regulation. According to OSHA sounds above 90dBA can cause complications to a person's hearing abilities. Construction workers, people handling heavy equipment, and those working on landing strips, are exposed to sounds greater than 100dBA. In these cases, your employer should provide safety gear to protect against the loud sounds. If an employer is violating an OSHA regulation which leads to an injury, the employee is capable of filing a workers’ compensation claim and request an OSHA inspection if the dangerous condition remains after your employer is notified.
If your claim is denied or contested, you will most likely have to enter a court of law with a judge, your employer, and his attorney. You should have an attorney by your side so that your case is represented by strong and reliable attorneys. To learn more about your workers’ rights under the State Workers’ Compensation Law, please contact the Orange County Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at 949-423-3212. Our attorneys are ready to handle your case and provide the best legal options to ensure you receive the most out of your injury.