Navigating occupational hearing loss claims

 

By Jenny Forti, Principal Lawyer, Accredited Specialist Personal Injury Law

What is occupational hearing loss?

Exposure to occupational noise can result in a permanent reduction in hearing, which is usually irreversible. Common examples of occupational noise include a landscaper’s exposure to lawnmowers, a process worker’s exposure to the sound of machinery and a construction worker’s exposure to the sound of a jackhammer.

Hearing loss can have a huge impact on a person’s life. People suffering from occupational hearing loss often have difficulty hearing when there is a lot of background noise. This can make it difficult to hear conversations in a crowd, or even hear the television when the sound is turned up high. Many also suffer from tinnitus, which causes a high-pitch ringing in the ears.

 

What is considered to be occupational noise?

Occupational noise is defined as noise which is at or above 85 decibels from sources such as lawnmowers, jackhammers, chainsaws, power tools, etc.

 

I have been exposed to noise at work. Am I entitled to compensation?

There is a government scheme in place for workers who have suffered occupational hearing loss, which allows access to compensation. Workers may be eligible for hearing aids and other medical expenses as well as lump-sum compensation for their hearing loss.

 

How do I make a claim for hearing loss?

To assess your entitlement to compensation, you must undergo a hearing test to measure your level of hearing loss. We are able to arrange a hearing test on your behalf and then provide you with advice in relation to your potential entitlements.

If you have a viable compensation claim, Gordon Legal will assist you from beginning to end.

We will lodge a claim on your behalf on the appropriate employer and their WorkCover insurer.

Once lodged, the WorkCover insurer is required to provide a response to your compensation claim within 120 days.

During this time, the WorkCover insurer will arrange a medical examination for you to attend with an ear, nose and throat specialist who will assess your level of permanent hearing loss and provide a medical report.

The WorkCover insurer will then provide a response to your compensation claim and advise as to whether your claim for hearing loss has been approved or denied, or if further information is required.

 

How much compensation am I entitled to?

The amount of compensation you are entitled to is determined by your level of hearing loss and your deemed date of your injury.

If you are not currently employed, your deemed date of injury is the last day on which you performed duties and were exposed to noise at work.

If you are currently employed and exposed to noise at work, your deemed date of injury is the date on which your claim was lodged.

 

Is there a time limit for lodging a hearing loss claim?

There is no time limit for making a hearing loss claim, but it is a good idea to get advice in relation to a potential claim as soon as possible.

 

I have had multiple employers – how do I know who to claim against?

Hearing loss injuries can occur over a long period of time, throughout which it is likely that workers have worked for multiple employers. The law does not require a worker to lodge claims against multiple employers. Instead, a worker is required to lodge their hearing loss claim against the last employer who exposed them to occupational noise.

 

I have previously lodged a compensation claim – can I lodge a further claim?

If you have suffered a significant additional loss of hearing, in some circumstances, a further claim can be lodged for additional loss of hearing.

To assess your entitlement to further compensation, you must undergo a hearing test to measure your current level of hearing loss. We are able to arrange a hearing test on your behalf and then provide you with advice in relation to your potential entitlements.

 

I have previously worked interstate and/or overseas – can I lodge a compensation claim in Victoria?

Only hearing loss sustained in Victoria is compensable in a Victorian hearing loss claim.

 

What to do if this information applies to you

At Gordon Legal, we understand that hearing loss is a personal issue.

For personalised and individual advice, we offer consultations to discuss your matter.

Please call Gordon Legal on (03) 9603 3000 or our Geelong office on (03) 5225 1600 to speak with a member of our team.

Given the current environment, we are providing consultations over the phone or via video conferencing platforms.

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