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Vision And Hearing Loss

Hiden, Rott & Oertle, LLP, in San Diego, is pleased to announce that it has filed the very first hearing loss class action, in California’s workers’ compensation history. This class action was filed on behalf of all Albertson’s meat cutters throughout California. HR&O is currently investigating other grocery store chains in California that fail to provide hearing protection to their meat cutter.

The following overview of work-related hearing loss is designed to help you ask the right questions and enable you to secure all the benefits you are entitled to under California Law.

Hearing loss can be caused by loud sounds or loud noise. When the sound is loud, the sound’s energy hitting the eardrum is high. This causes the hair cells to bend a great deal, sending a more powerful impulse to the brain. If the sound is high pitched, the hair cells have very little time between sound waves to recover their normal, upright position.

When the sound is both loud and high pitched, these inner ear nerve cells never get a change to recover, and they die. If enough of them die, we notice that we don’t hear as well as we did in the past. (Noise and Hearing Loss, Henry P. Shotwell, Ph.D., CIH, Robert E. Sheriff, CIH, CSP of Atlantic Environmental, Inc., Dover, New Jersey.)

In the workplace, noise exposure is regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA has set an 8-hour maximum exposure to noise in the workplace at 90 decibels (dBA). OSHA requires an Action Level (AL) of 85 dBA, which requires a hearing conservation program, which includes training, hearing protection and baseline and annual hearing tests to reduce workplace noise levels.

In the workers’ compensation system, there are two types of injuries that may occur. Injuries are either specific or cumulative.

A specific injury occurs as the result of one incident or exposure, which causes disability or the need for medical treatment.

A cumulative injury or disease can occur due to repeated traumatic activities or exposure extending over a period of time and the combined effect causes disability and/or the need for medical treatment.

For purposes of work-related hearing loss, if the noise exposure occurs one time, then a specific injury has possibly occurred. And, likewise, if the noise exposure occurs over a period of time, then a cumulative injury to exposure has possibly occurred.

Determining the date of injury is key, in this type of injury, as the limitation period or better known as the “statue of limitations,” does not start to run until the employee has lost time from work, is in need of medical treatment, and the employee knew or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known that the hearing loss was due to noise exposure at work.

Generally, the time clock will not start to run until a doctor tells the employee that the hearing loss was caused by work.

Lastly, an employer can only be held liable if the exposure to loud machines or equipment actually causes hearing loss.

If you or someone you know is employed or was employed as a meat cutter in California, then contact Hiden, Rott & Oertle, LLP,  in San Diego at 619-369-3323 or through our contact portal.