Tara Reck, Managing L&I Attorney at Reck Law PLLC - Workers' Compensation Attorneys

L&I and Workers Compensation Claims for Loss of Hearing Injuries

I’ve been working on a hearing loss claim and thought it would be a good idea to share some basic information about occupational hearing loss L&I claims in Washington State. Hearing loss claims are governed by RCW 51.28.055. Unless hearing loss occurs as a direct result of a sudden, traumatic event (which would be more appropriately classified as an industrial injury), occupational hearing loss claims are typically allowed as occupational disease claims. This kind of hearing loss is usually called sensorineural hearing loss.

 

However, these claims have some particular rules related to the timing of filing a claim that can significantly impact the long term value of the claim. In short, claims for occupational disease hearing loss must be filed within two years of being informed in writing by a physician or ARNP that an occupational disease claim exists and that a claim may be filed. As a practical matter, it is very rare for a physician or ANRP to put this kind of information in writing without taking the additional step of filing a claim. Therefore, it is very rare to see claims be denied solely because an application was not filed within an appropriate timeframe.

 

It is very important to know that just because an occupational hearing loss claim is allowable does not necessarily mean it is compensable. For an individual for a hearing loss claim to receive compensation under the claim (most frequently a Permanent Partial Disability or PPD award) the claim must be filed within two years of when the worker was last exposed to occupational noise in employment. In order words, if an individual stops working in an environment with occupational noise exposure in 2010 and does not file a claim until 2020, the claim may be allowed for medical aid benefits (typically hearing aids and lifetime repairs or replacements) but not other monetary benefits such as a PPD.

 

In summary, if you are a worker and you believe that your work has contributed to your hearing loss it is best not to delay in seeking out a medical examination to assess your hearing loss and to file a claim for occupational disease hearing loss to ensure that you will be afforded both medical and compensation benefits under the Industrial Insurance Act.

8 Comments

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    JoAnne

    I’m having all the issues you have explained but need to speak to a lawyer that I can over some of my issues I’m having with them is 32 yr of noise exposure something they are doing what you mentioned in your information who in Tacoma can I speak with ?

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    JoAnne

    Are there Any attorney s out there who listen to L& I hearing loss claims???

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    Kim

    We filed 5 months out of the 2 year limitations. My husband only had 4 employers in 35 years of work in construction! He cannot be compensated?

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    mervin

    i recently went and got my hearing because my significant other told me that i would be ignoring her and the kids i never knew so i got tested the tester said that i had significant hearing loss i worked in the shipyards here in washington state and several prossesing vesselels in alaska is there a lawyer here in kitsap co that i can talk to.

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      L&I attorney

      Hi Mervin. I’m sorry to hear about your situation. The shipyard work falls under federal workers compensation, which we currently do not do. I’m not aware of anyone else in Kitsap that handles federal workers’ comp cases.

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    Val

    I have 45% hearing loss high tone L&i gave me hearing aids I was asked if I have ringing in my ears. I said no but I don’t understand what the dr. Meant he meant tinnitus. I do have that it not a ring in the ears but it like static. It’s hard for me to explain the noise. It is constantly never ending. Could I be compensated financially from work related damages to my hearing

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    Joshua R Swerin

    In my case I’m being denied PPD for an Injury claim in which I had a Sudden loss of hearing and tinnitus resulting from an accident and not occupational hearing loss. In the claims paper work it advises that tinnitus resulting from an industrial injury (which the claim was filed as an injury) accepts a tinnitus rating with or without compensative hearing loss. My issue is within the guidelines they seem to not have a way to calculate sudden Traumatic hearing loss for an injury as if it doesn’t meet the criteria for occupational hearing loss they advised I cannot be compensated. Does this mean my hearing loss is non compensatable or is it a larger grey area?

    Even after pointing out very clear adjudicater guidelines verbage they say I will have to file an appeal which I’ve done once before.

    It’s been close to a 2 year battle and not sure what steps to take next?

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      L&I attorney

      Hi Joshua. The situation you are describing is a gray area and it is highly dependent on the specific medical facts of your case. It would be best to appeal to preserve your rights.

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