In Australia, hearing loss affects one out of every six individuals, and occupational noise is responsible for 25% of this group’s loss of hearing. If you’re among those who have experienced substantial hearing loss due to your job, you could be entitled to receive compensation.
We’ll cover the criteria for making a claim, types of compensation and the legal process of hearing loss cases.
Hearing loss claim eligibility
The compensation granted through filing a successful occupational hearing loss claim generally comes in one of the following forms: hearing aids, and/or a lump-sum payment — each with their own specific eligibility criteria.
If your hearing has been impaired due to your job, you could potentially be eligible to seek reimbursement for the expenses of acquiring a hearing aid(s). To be eligible, a hearing aid must be deemed ‘reasonably necessary’, though there is no minimum threshold in terms of the severity of the hearing loss.
Your hearing loss injury must be work-related — such as exposure to loud noises or harmful chemicals in the workplace — and you must be able to provide evidence to support your claim.
Lump sum payment
If your hearing loss occurred on or after January 1st, 2002, you may qualify for a lump sum compensation payment, provided an evaluation confirms that you have at least 20.5% binaural hearing loss (BHL). BHL refers to the amount of hearing loss that affects both ears.
For claims related to injuries that occurred prior to January 1st, 2002, the threshold for eligibility is higher — an assessed BHL of 6% or greater is required. The assessment is conducted by an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist who measures the injury’s severity.
Compensation for hearing loss claims
Hearing loss compensation in New South Wales (NSW)
The management of workers’ compensation claims in NSW is overseen by the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA), a regulatory body of the NSW Government.
Those who suffer from hearing loss may be eligible for compensation based on the severity of their condition and the date of the injury. Here are the details:
- If the hearing loss occurred before January 1st, 2002, the person may qualify for a lump sum payment ranging from $520 to $650 for each 1% of binaural hearing loss.
- If the hearing loss happened on or after January 1st, 2002, the minimum threshold for lump sum compensation is 20.5% binaural hearing loss — with a compensation rate of approximately $800 for every 1% BML.
- Firefighters, paramedics, police officers and coal miners may be eligible for compensation with only 6% hearing loss.
In addition, those with tinnitus — meaning a prolonged ringing or buzzing in the ears — may receive an additional 5% compensation if they also have binaural hearing loss. Eligible individuals may also be provided with a lifetime supply of hearing aids from an authorised supplier, with the option for replacements every five years.
Hearing loss compensation in Victoria
Workers in Victoria who suffer from industrial deafness can make a WorkSafe claim through the employer responsible for the noise exposure.
A 10% BML is the threshold for a lump sum payment, with payments increasing by $700 to $2,100 for each 1% of hearing loss. For current employees, the lump sum payments range from $20,000 to $38,000.
If industrial deafness affects job performance, weekly payments may be provided based on the individual’s pre-injury average weekly earnings and the injury’s duration.
During the first 13 weeks of the injury, the individual can receive 95% of their pre-injury average weekly earnings. From week 14 to week 130, the amount drops to 80% of their pre-injury average weekly earnings.
If the individual cannot work after 130 weeks and is likely to remain off work indefinitely, they may be eligible for 80% of their pre-injury average weekly earnings. Additionally, WorkSafe-approved providers may provide a lifetime supply of hearing aids.
Hearing loss compensation in Queensland
In Queensland, WorkCover Queensland oversees the management of noise-induced hearing loss. To be eligible for compensation, claimants must meet the following criteria:
- Undergone a baseline hearing test at the start of their employment in a noisy industry.
- Experienced a minimum hearing loss of 5%, relative to the abovementioned hearing test.
The compensation amount for noise-induced hearing loss in Queensland varies depending on the degree of injury. Claimants may receive lump-sum payments of approximately $10,000 for a 5% hearing loss and approximately $20,000 for a 10% hearing loss.
The legal process for hearing loss claims
Here is what you can expect when initiating a hearing loss claim in NSW, Victoria and WA.
NSW and Victoria's proceedings
Whether you’re pursuing a lump sum payment or simply making a claim for hearing aids, attending a medical examination is required. An ENT specialist will assess your hearing loss and provide a report.
Your solicitor will then lodge a claim on your behalf based on the findings of your examination. If you have filed for a lump sum, the insurance provider will either extend an acceptable offer of compensation, or you’ll need to consult an independent medical expert arranged by the Workers Compensation Commission for a final hearing loss evaluation.
If you are solely claiming for hearing aids, the insurance provider typically approves your claim without any further review.
The legal process for hearing loss claims in Queensland can be thought of as five separate steps, which are as follows.
- Report your hearing loss to your employer as soon as you notice it. This will help to establish a timeline for your hearing loss and make it easier to claim compensation.
- Get a medical assessment from an audiologist or ENT specialist to confirm that your hearing loss is work-related. The assessment will determine the extent of your hearing loss and the degree of permanent impairment (DPI).
- Once you have a medical assessment, you can lodge a claim with WorkCover Queensland. You will need to provide WorkCover with the following information:
- Your name and contact details.
- Your employer’s name and contact details.
- The date you started working for your employer.
- The type of work you do.
- The medical assessment report.
- Eligibility for compensation will be determined by WorkCover after assessing your claim. Once approved, the amount of compensation you are entitled to will be calculated by WorkCover.
- In case your claim is rejected, you have the option to appeal the decision. You will be given 28 days from the decision date to file an appeal.
The legal process for hearing loss claims in Queensland can be complex and time-consuming. It is important to get legal advice as soon as possible to ensure that your claim is handled correctly.
The importance of expert legal advice
Hearing impairment claims involve a complex and intricate legal process — requiring the assistance of an expert in personal injury law. Although the information we have provided above can guide you in the right direction, seeking the advice of a personal injury lawyer will help you navigate your specific circumstances more effectively.
GMP Law is a leading Australian law firm, with extensive experience in helping those who’ve suffered industrial hearing loss receive the compensation they’re entitled to. During your free consultation, one of our personal injury solicitors will assess the details of your case and provide you with expert guidance on the legal options — and expected outcomes — available to you.