Signs of Industrial DeafnessCertain occupations — such as construction, mining and manufacturing — are especially susceptible to regular loud noises throughout the average workday. Even with some precautions in place, these noises in excess may lead to varying degrees of hearing impairment. It’s estimated that approximately one million Australians are affected by a work-induced hearing impairment. These impairments have also been connected to other health concerns, such as cardiovascular disease, excess fatigue and tinnitus, among others. Given the magnitude and associated life implications of industrial deafness, seeking both legal advice and medical assistance is necessary to ensure your rights are protected. If you believe you’re a victim of industrial deafness, or may be susceptible, look for the following signs:
- Inability (or lessened ability) to hear conversations.
- Loss of hearing in one or both ears (either temporarily or permanently).
- Hearing constant buzzing, ringing, roaring, ticking or hissing noises (signs of tinnitus).
- Struggling to hear a conversation when there is background noise.
- Finding it necessary to turn up the volume on audio channels to hear properly.
Your ears can withstand substantial amounts of loud noise (up to 60 decibels safely), but 85 decibels (dB) or more over long periods can cause permanent impairment to your hearing. Safe Work Australia notes that worksites can legally have up to 85 dB at a worksite, but employees are only required to have hearing tests if the site consistently reaches 90 dB. Compare this to a ceiling fan: On low, it creates 15 dB, whereas a mitre saw produces 102 dB. Safe Work also noted that the decibel levels at a worksite are rarely measured and employees are subject to unchecked sound levels throughout their workweek. Without taking the proper precautions on a worksite or not being given necessary equipment, a worker’s hearing can quickly — and potentially permanently — deteriorate.
Considering an Industrial Hearing Loss Claim: The ProcessAccording to Hear-It, hearing loss will affect most people by the time they are 80. With that said, if you notice signs of hearing loss before age 40 (which typically marks the start of hearing loss), and you work in an industrial occupation, you should take the first step of meeting your doctor for a hearing assessment and formal diagnosis. Note that, in most jurisdictions, victims have to file their compensation claim within three years of their diagnosis. Ensure that you keep a record of your medical documents following your doctor’s visit, as they will serve as evidence in your industrial deafness claim. The remainder of necessary evidence will be gathered in partnership with your lawyer who will guide you through the occupational hearing loss claim legal process. While the required evidence differs case-by-case, your lawyer may help you gather the following:
- Evidence that you were not required to wear ear protection at your worksite.
- Your worksite’s decibel level.
- Documentation of the duration of noise exposure.
- Additional medical documents beyond your initial diagnosis.
Your lawyer may also gather expert and/or witness statements, and look for potential patterns of workplace negligence, among other case components. Once the necessary evidence has been gathered, your lawyer will then assess your case and determine whether or not you’re eligible for compensation. Here is an overview of the eligibility criteria and compensation expectations across different Australian jurisdictions:
NSW: Those who experienced hearing loss before January 1, 2002 may receive lump sum compensation between $520 to $650 per 1% binaural hearing loss — meaning loss of hearing in both ears. For victims who experienced industrial deafness on or after this date, a 20.5% hearing loss is the prerequisite for receiving lump sum compensation of $800 per 1% binaural hearing loss.
Victoria: A 10% binaural hearing loss is the prerequisite for compensation, with payments increasing by $700 to $2,100 for each 1% of hearing loss. A lump sum payment ranging from $20,000 to $38,000 may also be provided if the victim is still employed by the responsible company. If industrial deafness affects job performance, weekly payments may be provided based on various factors, including the individual’s pre-injury average weekly earnings and the injury’s duration.
QLD: To be eligible for compensation, claimants must’ve completed a baseline hearing test at the beginning of their employment. Any hearing loss — starting at a prerequisite of 5% — is then compared to said test. Claimants may receive lump-sum payments of approximately $10,000 for a 5% hearing loss and approximately $20,000 for a 10% hearing loss. Beyond the possibility of lump sum compensation, claimants may also receive a payment covering the cost of hearing aids. Ultimately, your lawyer will assess the facts of your case in light of your state’s requirements and inform you of the possible outcomes of your case. If your claim has legal grounding, your lawyer will then work with you to lodge a claim with the relevant insurance agency. While the time it takes for a claim to process may differ depending on the injury’s severity, the gathering of evidence and other necessary factors, claimants can generally expect the full process — from the filing of the claim to an offer from the insurance agency — to take approximately 18 months.
Preparing for your initial consultation with a workers compensation lawyerConsidering gathering the following information prior to your first meeting with your workers’ compensation lawyer:
- Your work history from the past decade.
- When and where you believe the injury occurred.
- How and when you first reported the injury, if applicable.
- Your medical history, including how soon you contacted your doctor.
The more information you’re able to gather, the better equipped your lawyer will be in determining the strength of your case — able to advise you on the best legal course of action based on your unique circumstance.
Preventing Industrial DeafnessIf you are still working on an industrial site that may be contributing toward your injury, consider taking preventative measures for protecting your ears from further damage. Here are some steps you can take:
- Take a break from loud noises every 15 minutes.
- Give your ears about 18 hours of rest after exposure to loud noises.
- Wear industrial-grade earplugs or earmuffs.
Also, consider speaking with your employer about further preventative measures that you may implement to reduce your vulnerability to loud noise. If the necessary steps have been taken yet you’re still experiencing a hearing impairment, we recommend contacting a lawyer as soon as possible. GMP’s team of expert personal injury lawyers can work with you to ensure that you receive the payout you’re owed. We’ll step you through each step of the industrial hearing loss claim process, providing you with expert legal advice and representation along the way. To reduce stress and provide our clients with the necessary opportunities to pursue compensation, we offer a no-win, no-fee policy. This means that you don’t pay us unless your claim arrives at a positive outcome; all upfront costs — including any costs associated with evidence gathering — are on us. For no-obligation advice, contact Gerard Malouf & Partners, a leading Australian law firm that can maximise compensation for your claim. Give us a call today to set an appointment.