Areas of Law > Workers' Compensation

Industrial Heaing Loss

Many employees in industry work in plants where they are exposed to constant loud noise. This can often result in a gradual and progressive hearing loss. Such a hearing loss is compensable in Pennsylvania. In February 1995, the legislature amended the hearing loss portion of the Workers' Compensation Act, (Act I of 1995). We now have a specific formula to determine the percentage of hearing loss suffered by a claimant. This percentage is then used to calculate the amount of benefits which are paid. A 100% loss will be paid the full 260 weeks of benefits. Otherwise, the percentage is applied to the 260 weeks. (Example: a 20% hearing loss will result in a payment of 52 weeks of compensation; 20% of 260 weeks at the 2007 maximum rate, this would result in payment of $779.00 per week or $40,508.00). A successful claimant will also receive hearing aids. In order to bring a claim for hearing loss, the claimant must have greater than a 10% loss using the legal formula and must be able to prove that the noise at work caused the loss.

Act I states that the employer is only liable for the hearing loss caused by that employer. Therefore, if the employer can prove that the claimant had some hearing loss when she/he was hired, they may be able to reduce the amount of benefits awarded by the amount of that pre-existing hearing loss.

Many employers are required by OSHA to test the hearing of their employees annually. Employees should cooperate in the testing. Employees who refuse audiometric testing at work can lose their right to pursue a claim. Employees can request a copy of their audiometric testing and a brief explanation of the results. The employer must supply this information within 30 days of the date the results are available.

The three-year statute of limitations applies to hearing loss cases. A claim must be filed within three years of the last date the employee was exposed to the noise in the employ of the employer against whom benefits are sought. Please note that this is the last date of noise exposure, which may be different from the last date of employment or retirement. If an employee is moved out of the noise to another job which has no noise, for example, in a storeroom, the statute begins to run on the last date the employee actually worked in the noise.

The usual notice provisions of the Act still apply. Notice must be given to the employer within 120 days after the employee knew or should have known of the relationship between the hearing loss and his/her employment. This knowledge most often occurs when an employee is told by a doctor that she/he has suffered a hearing loss as a result of noise exposure at work.

Retirees may still be eligible to file this claim if they have a noise-induced hearing loss and have worked in noise less than three years before filing the claim.

If you would like to investigate your hearing loss, we would be happy to help you.

Representing the working men and women of Pennsylvania since 1981