There are many dangers of working on an industrial or construction site. While deafness may not be the first workplace injury that comes to mind for those who work in heavy industry, it can be the most common. Noise induced hearing loss doesn’t usually present itself all at once and could be a result of long exposure to loud industrial work site noise.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of industrial deafness, read on for details about how to handle a hearing loss claim.
Signs of industrial deafness
In certain occupations, such as construction or mining, employees are subject to loud sounds throughout their workday. These noises can lead to industrial deafness, which is the second-leading cause of deafness according to the Australian Department of Health. Industrial deafness is also called noise-induced hearing loss or occupational noise-induced hearing loss (ONIHL).
A 2020 study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that an estimated 111,000 Australians were affected by industrial deafness in 2020. The study found that occupational deafness often builds up over 10 years of exposure to excessive noise and cost the nation $33.7 billion in 2017. With so many Australians suffering from, or even not realizing they may have already suffered industrial hearing loss, taking legal and medical action to protect yourself from further damage is not only empowering but necessary for your future.
If you feel like you may have fallen victim to industrial deafness, or might become a victim, 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 deafness claim
Hearing loss is part of the typical aging process. According to the international non-profit organisation Hear-It, this condition will affect most people by the time they are 80. 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 consult your doctor immediately for a hearing test.
Untreated hearing loss can develop into deafness, which is known to increase memory loss and depression, according to the Australian Department of Health.
If you’re considering what to do about your hearing loss and want to file a claim, be sure to start by gathering evidence. First, you should visit your doctor for a checkup, and get fitted for a hearing aid if necessary. Keep records of your visits and ask for a note from your doctor if you receive a hearing loss diagnosis.
You will also need to note the tools you used onsite and gather evidence that you were not required to wear ear protection. If you can, it’ll be helpful to find out if the site was not tested for its decibel level. Your lawyer can help you with this, as it will help support your claim.
Often, the defendant may attempt to dispute your case by suggesting your hearing loss was from another source, including:
- Childhood illnesses
- Pregnancy-related illnesses
- Personal injury
Along with the other medical records you’ll gather for evidence of your hearing loss, you should also obtain notes that prove you have not suffered from any of the reasons listed above.
Preparing for your initial consultation with a workers compensation lawyer
When you first come to a workers compensation lawyer, you will want to show them all of the evidence you have gathered. This will help your lawyer understand the case and ultimately increase your chances of winning hearing loss compensation.
To prepare, you should prepare:
- Your work history from the past decade.
- When and where you believe the injury occurred.
- How and when you first reported the injury.
- Your medical history, including how soon you contacted a doctor and your treatments.
You could do this later in the discovery process, but if you have testimonials from witnesses of the hearing loss injury, you should bring these forward upon initially meeting your lawyer. This can include coworkers, managers, friends or family members.
How long does an industrial deafness claim take?
Each case is different and gathering the necessary information during the discovery process will take time. However, industrial deafness claims typically take 18 months to complete. After your initial meeting with your lawyer, they will be able to give you a better idea on your specific case’s timeline and compensation estimate.
Preventing industrial deafness
If you are still working on an industrial site, consider taking preventative measures for protecting your ears from further damage. Here are some steps you can take when possible:
- 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.
The best way to ensure hearing longevity is by taking control of your situation. The less vulnerable your ears are to loud noises, the longer you can prevent deafness. However, if you’ve taken the necessary steps in your personal life and you are still experiencing hearing loss, consult a lawyer about making a claim.
Your workers compensation lawyer can help you determine how likely you are to win compensation to cover your treatments and future hearing care. For no-obligation advice, contact Gerard Malouf & Partners, the leading no-win no-fee law firm that can maximise compensation for your claim. Give us a call today to set an appointment.