Deafness is a major concern for Australians working in industrial workplaces such as factories, the mining industry, and many trades. Industrial deafness is often caused as a result of exposure to loud noise in the workplace from machinery or other equipment. Although protection such as earmuffs, and earplugs are often used, they are not always effective in protecting against hearing loss or deafness.
It is common for such workers with hearing loss or deafness to retire without making a claim. This is usually because they are unaware of their rights or do not want to file a claim against their employer at the time.
Workers aged 26 or over that have signs of hearing loss are eligible for compensation under the National Insurance Disability Scheme (NDIS). In support of the claim, workers may be required to provide evidence of loud noise hearing loss based on their hearing sensitivity or pure tone average (PTA).
The cost of hearing aids can also be claimed by completing a SIRA Workers Injury Claim Form. This can be downloaded through the SIRA website. In support of this claim, the worker will need to undertake an audiological assessment by an approved SIRA hearing provider. The specialist will assess whether the use of hearing aids will be beneficial and provide a cost estimate. If the claim is approved, the worker will be entitled to a new set of hearing aids every five years.
If a worker decides to file a workers’ compensation claim, evidence must be gathered with respect to the working conditions at the time of the exposure. Evidence must demonstrate that hearing loss was a result of the working conditions rather than aging or a pre-existing medical condition. Evidence can be produced in the form of a report or document that confirms that ear protection was not utilised, statements from colleagues, friends and family and doctor’s reports.
If a worker is currently working in a noisy workplace, a workers’ compensation claim can be lodged through that employer who will provide details to the insurer to commence the claim. If a worker is not currently working in a noisy workplace, a claim should be lodged with the last employer who employed the worker in a noisy workplace.
If the hearing loss was caused by loud noise exposure prior to 1 January 2002, a claim can be made for lump sum compensation if the percentage of hearing loss is assessed in both ears to be 6% or more. If the hearing loss occurred after 1 January 2002, a lump sum claim for compensation will be based on the worker’s degree of permanent hearing impairment. The assessed percentage of hearing loss will need to be 20.5% or greater and this is equal to an 11% hearing impairment. This impairment will need to be assessed by a medical specialist, most usually an Ear Nose and Throat Specialist as part of the claims process. The amount of compensation available will depend on the degree of impairment.
Here at BPC Lawyers, our personal injury lawyers can help you determine how likely you are to receive compensation to cover your treatments and future hearing care. For a free initial consultation, please contact us at (02) 8280 6900.