When thinking of workers’ compensation claims, most people might imagine scenarios in which an unexpected accident leads to a catastrophic worker injury. While these situations are certainly harrowing and are the root of thousands of workers’ comp claims each year in America, they are not the most common type of injury the average employee may encounter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research, the number one worker injury in the country is actually hearing loss.
The CDC estimates that more than 20 million American workers regularly work in environments that have damaging levels of noise throughout the day. Construction workers, employees in industrial settings, and miners are the most likely to encounter workplace noises that register high on the decibel scale. After only a brief time of employment, workers on such career paths could already begin to experience a noticeable amount of hearing loss, especially if a loud burst ruptures their eardrum and no time is allowed to let it heal.
Department of Labor (DOL) statistics back up what the CDC has found in its own studies. According to the DOL, nearly $250 million worth of workers’ compensation benefits are paid out every year due to employees experiencing severe hearing loss or disability caused by the pain of inner ear damage.
OSHA Regulations May Need Updating
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set standards regarding what is and what is not to be considered a safe decibel level for workers. For the most part, it concerns itself with the construction industry, though, stating that spending a workday with near-constant 85 decibel sound levels may be hazardous and creating a 90-decibel hard cap before ear protection must be provided. OSHA has been criticized, however, for not applying its regulations to other industries that also encounter loud noises regularly. Food service workers in particular often report hearing loss due to the busy environment of the kitchen but OSHA inspections for such workplaces rarely make an effort to record decibel levels.
Furthermore, a Stanford University study determined that high-noise environments actually caused less cases of severe hearing loss than moderate-noise environments. The cause of this strange misbalance in expected results is that moderate-noise environments – once again, like a kitchen – do not give hearing protection to employees, whereas high-noise environments do. In this regard, hearing loss becomes a form of repetitive stress injury, as it often accumulates damage over time rather than causing it all at once or within a brief amount of time.
If you would like to know more about hearing loss in the workplace, California Healthline posted an interesting article last year regarding this issue. You can click here to read it in full. If you have experienced hearing loss at your workplace and believe you deserve workers’ compensation benefits for it, contact The Law Offices of Nathaniel F. Hansford, LLC and our Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys today. With our legal representation and counsel backed by an extensive history of positive case results, you may be able to live comfortably again after experiencing painful, debilitating, or permanent hearing loss at work.