What is industrial deafness? Symptoms, causes & claim process

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Industrial deafness, also known as industrial hearing loss, is a condition that can affect individuals across various industries in Australia. This article aims to explain what industrial deafness is, how to claim compensation, deadlines for claiming compensation, symptoms and preventive measures.

What is industrial deafness?

Industrial deafness is a form of hearing loss stemming from prolonged exposure to high levels of noise within the workplace. This condition manifests in various ways, including temporary or permanent hearing loss and the occurrence of tinnitus. Occupations in construction, manufacturing, mining, agriculture, transportation (especially truck drivers), and even in music and events are at higher risk due to loud machinery and frequent exposure to elevated noise levels.

How to claim for industrial deafness: requirements

To claim compensation for industrial deafness in Australia, individuals must adhere to specific requirements. The eligibility criteria may vary across states, but in general, claimants need to meet the following conditions:

  • Diagnosis timing: Claimants usually have up to three years from the date of their industrial deafness diagnosis to initiate a compensation claim.
  • Hearing loss thresholds: The severity of hearing loss plays a crucial role. For instance, in Victoria, there is no specific level required for claiming compensation, but a 10% binaural hearing loss and further deterioration might be necessary.
  • Workplace departure date: If the individual left the workplace responsible for the industrial deafness after November 12, 1997, and has at least a 10% binaural hearing loss, they may qualify for compensation.
  • Compensation thresholds: For victims who experienced industrial deafness on or after a certain date, a 20.5% hearing loss is often required to receive lump sum compensation.

It is crucial to consult with legal and medical professionals to navigate the complexities of the claims process.

What is the industrial deafness claim time limit?

The Industrial Deafness Claim Time Limit in Australia varies depending on the state and territory. Here is a summary:

  • New South Wales: Generally, you have 6 months from the onset of symptoms to submit a claim.
  • Victoria: There is no specific time limit to lodge an initial WorkCover claim for industrial deafness, but once accepted, subsequent claims may have limitations.
  • Queensland: Filing is necessary while still employed or within a year of retirement.

Time limits are crucial, and it's advisable to lodge a claim promptly, typically within 30 days of noticing symptoms.

It's essential to consult with a legal professional to understand specific regulations and ensure timely filing.

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Industrial hearing loss compensation

Compensation for industrial deafness is provided through a lump sum payment. Upon acceptance of your claim, WorkCover will arrange for an assessment of your hearing by an audiologist, aiming to determine the extent of work-related, long-term hearing loss. The degree of permanent damage resulting from your injury is termed the degree of permanent impairment (DPI).

The compensation amount is determined based on the level of work-related hearing loss experienced. WorkCover will propose a compensation offer, considering factors such as:

  • Hearing loss occurring outside Queensland or during self-employment (if applicable)
  • 5% of hearing loss attributable to natural aging
  • Hearing loss from prior assessments

Industrial deafness payout in Australia

In Australia, industrial deafness compensation payouts vary based on factors such as the extent of hearing loss and the jurisdiction. Generally, if a worker experiences industrial deafness, they may be eligible for a lump sum payout. The compensation is often determined by the percentage of binaural hearing loss, which refers to the combined loss in both ears.

The payout depends on the severity of hearing loss, with percentages ranging from 6% to 10% and beyond.

  • For instance, in Victoria, a worker leaving the workplace after 12/11/1997 with at least 10% binaural hearing loss could receive compensation of around $700.
  • Police and emergency services workers may only need 6% binaural hearing loss to be eligible for compensation, resulting in a 1% Whole Person Impairment (WPI).
  • In New South Wales (NSW), those experiencing hearing loss before January 1, 2002, may receive lump sum compensation between $520 to $650 per 1% binaural hearing loss.
  • Queensland's WorkCover offers a lump sum payment for accepted claims, with compensation determined by the severity of industrial deafness.

The permanent impairment threshold, often set at 11%, may be a criterion for determining the compensation amount.

What is the average payout for industrial deafness

The average payout for industrial deafness in Australia can vary based on factors such as the severity of hearing loss, jurisdiction, and specific circumstances of each case. Compensation amounts are influenced by the extent of binaural hearing loss and other related factors.

Acceptance or rejection of the compensation offer

When confronted with the decision to accept or reject the assessment and compensation offer for industrial deafness, the power to choose lies with you. Several considerations should factor into your decision-making process, including whether you wish to pursue damages through a common law claim, particularly if you believe your hearing loss resulted from your employer's negligence.

Claiming damages with lump sum acceptance

Claiming damages alongside accepting a lump sum is possible only if your Degree of Permanent Impairment (DPI) is 20% or more. If your DPI falls between 5% and 19%, you must make a decision between accepting the assessment's lump sum offer or opting for damages.

Disagreement with the assessment: options

Disagreeing with the assessment opens up the following options:

  • Requesting an independent assessment: WorkCover can arrange this if they concur. If not, the alternative is referral to the Medical Assessment Tribunal.
  • Opting for the medical assessment tribunal: Administered by the Workers' Compensation Regulator, this independent body, comprising specialists, provides a final decision on DPI, with no option for appeal.

Getting Answers: Contact Information

For queries or additional information, contact WorkCover at 1300 362 128. If your employer is self-insured, reach out to their worker's compensation department.

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Industrial hearing loss symptoms

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The symptoms of industrial deafness can vary from person to person.

Common signs include

  1. temporary or permanent hearing reduction
  2. difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments
  3. constant ringing or buzzing in the ears
  4. struggles with hearing specific sounds, such as the voices of children and women.

If you notice such changes, it's crucial to undergo a hearing test.

Hearing test for industrial deafness

If you suspect industrial deafness, a hearing test is imperative. Book a free hearing test at your local clinic, such as Amplifon, to assess the extent of your hearing loss accurately. Early detection can aid in determining the appropriate course of action for treatment and potential compensation claims.

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Industrial deafness treatment

How to address industrial deafness varies depending on the specific impact it has on individuals, ranging from temporary hearing loss to permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. The appropriate course of treatment is tailored to each case.

Temporary hearing loss

For those experiencing temporary hearing loss in one or both ears, treatment may not be necessary. Allowing the delicate hair cells within the ear to rest by avoiding loud sounds can often restore hearing within a day or so. If hearing does not return to normal after a couple of days, seeking medical attention is advisable.

Permanent hearing loss

In cases where industrial deafness results in permanent hearing loss, the recommendation may involve the use of hearing aids. The unique requirements of each individual affected by the condition are carefully evaluated to determine the most suitable option based on lifestyle. Given the diverse range of hearing aids available, there is typically an option that aligns with most preferences.

Tinnitus management

When industrial deafness leads to tinnitus, managing the associated symptoms may involve suggestions such as meditation, incorporating hearing aids, and making specific lifestyle and dietary changes. It's important to note that while tinnitus cannot be cured, audiologists can provide valuable strategies to alleviate some of the discomfort and challenges associated with the condition.

Preventing industrial deafness

Unlike some other types of hearing impairment, industrial deafness is often preventable. Several measures can be implemented to minimize exposure to high levels of noise in the workplace:

  • Ensuring proper hearing protection, such as earmuffs and earplugs, is worn when working in loud environments.
  • Regularly checking that all hearing protection equipment is in good working order and used appropriately.
  • Minimizing the duration of exposure to high levels of noise whenever possible.
  • Introducing soundproofing and noise reduction equipment to the work environment.
  • Undergoing regular hearing tests to monitor any changes over time.

Given that the symptoms of industrial deafness may take months or even years to become noticeable, particularly with prolonged exposure, it is crucial to consistently implement all preventive measures whenever possible.

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