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The Importance of Hearing Protection in Noisy Work Environments

Sep 28, 2015 Brown Moore Workers' Compensation

Factories, construction sites, and even rock concerts pose hearing risks for workers. In a perfect world, all employers that subject their workers to noisy work environments provide the highest-quality hearing protection available — and insist that their employees use them. Unfortunately, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration asserts that every year, high workplace noise levels cause thousands of workers to sustain a hearing loss on the job.

The best approach workers can take to fight hearing loss is to prevent it. Whenever possible, they should insist that their employers provide hearing protection devices when noise levels are consistently high at the workplace.

Understand that the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act (the “Act”) considers hearing loss to be a covered condition, but it includes many provisions that can prevent a successful claim. That said, workers need to get in touch with an experienced Charlotte workplace injury attorney at the first sign that their claims might be denied.

Understanding the Definitions and Exceptions Pertaining to Hearing Loss

The circumstances associated with loss of hearing can involve a complex array of variables and the Act attempts to address the issues by including a detailed set of definitions and exceptions, such as the following:

  • The term, “harmful noise” involves workplace sound, generally above 90 decibels, that can produce an occupational and permanent loss of hearing. Temporary hearing loss, at any level, is not covered.
  • When workplace sounds fall at higher levels, claims may be denied if employees experience hearing losses by failing to use employer-provided hearing protection devices of approved quality.
  • The Act includes coverage only for the loss of hearing that occurs as a result of employment. Benefits can be reduced based on prior or congenitally-based hearing loss, as well as losses related to events outside the workplace.
  • Hearing loss is essentially defined as the inability to hear sounds within normal frequency ranges. Workers do not typically qualify for benefits when they cannot hear sounds outside of those ranges.

The Act contains more detail than can be itemized here. It uses complex calculations and applies the U.S. and international standards when measuring noise levels and hearing loss. Many time limits also apply.

Hearing Loss Claim Analysis Can Be Subjective

Despite using scientific standards, claim denial can be based as much on the interpretation of the law as on objective facts. Where a leg was broken on the job may be relatively easy to claim under North Carolina’s workers’ compensation system, hearing loss claims commonly require assistance from a skilled legal advocate.

Whenever workers believe they are receiving unfair treatment for a workplace injury claim, it makes sense to seek legal advice. Call us at 800-948-0577 or use our convenient online contact form to see how we can help.