Hearing loss can be hard to notice because the condition can accumulate slowly over a long period of time. This is why it can often be difficult to tell that you're suffering and quite hard to pinpoint the cause. However, you may suddenly notice that you are finding it very difficult to understand the conversation in a crowded room or may need to turn the television up to hear it. While there are steps that you can take to treat this condition to make it more bearable, did you know that you can also seek compensation if your hearing loss is a result of conditions at work? What do you need to know about your rights here?
Many industries are by their very nature noisy. While employers are duty-bound to protect workers from the noisiest situations in the automotive, manufacturing or construction industries, issues can still arise. Unfortunately, some employers do not take their obligations as seriously as they should.
Becoming Aware of the Problem
Constant exposure to high noise levels can certainly have a damaging effect on hearing. Some people develop tinnitus, a ringing sensation in the ears that does not go away. Others will notice difficulty in social situations, but in the worst-case scenario, some may suffer permanent hearing loss.
Under Australian law, you can claim compensation from the workers' compensation scheme if you suffered hearing loss due to your employment or if it was a significant contributor. You will need to go through a certain process and be examined by a qualified ENT specialist, and the sooner that you get the ball rolling, the better.
To kick things off, talk with your GP. Tell them about your worries, and they will conduct an initial exam. They will then refer you to an ENT specialist who will assess your hearing loss according to standards laid down by the National Acoustics Laboratory. Once the workers' compensation administrators receive this information, they will be able to calculate your hearing loss in terms of "whole person impairment." They can determine if you qualify for a lump sum impairment benefit from this.
The insurance will also give you weekly payments if you are not able to perform your duties any longer, with ongoing payments if you are unable to find suitable employment indefinitely. You can also claim for medical expenditure and the cost of hearing aids or other devices.
Remember, if your employer was negligent, leading to your hearing loss, you might be able to bring a case for damages. Talk with a personal injury solicitor first for advice on this and other parts of your upcoming claim.