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Compensation for Noise Induced hearing loss

noise-induced-hearing-loss-victoria

noise-induced-hearing-loss-victoriaUntil recent times, the damage caused by working in noisy environments was not fully appreciated by many companies.

As a result, Australians working in factories, the building industry, mining industry, and other noisy workplaces were rarely provided with ear protection and hundreds of thousands of people have subsequently incurred occupational hearing loss.

The state government provides a scheme for employees who have incurred occupational hearing loss with access to compensation, which includes hearing aids and rehabilitation. This scheme is administered by Worksafe Victoria.

What is noise-induced hearing loss?

Noise-induced hearing loss is an irreversible condition that can have a significant impact on a worker’s life.
The majority of work-related hearing loss injuries occur over an extended period of time, sometimes many years, as a result of exposure to industrial noise. We refer to this type of hearing loss as a gradual onset injury. This type of hearing loss can present during employment, or not be identified by the worker until many years after exposure.

Hearing loss can also result from exposure to sudden loud noises, such as explosions, gunshots or heavy hammering. These types of noises are commonly referred to as ‘impact’ noises and, if loud enough, can cause immediate, permanent damage.

How does WorkSafe decide which employer is liable for a hearing loss claim?

As hearing loss injuries can occur over a long period of time, legislation was written to allocate liability to one employer for all hearing loss claims. This is based on a deemed date of injury, which is either:

  • The last date of the worker’s employment during which they were exposed to noise, or
  • If the worker is still employed with an employer that has exposed them to noise, the date the claim is made.

The employer at the time of the deemed injury date is the one liable for the hearing loss claim. This method of liability allocation provides a consistent and timely approach to managing hearing loss claims.

What compensation can WorkSafe provide for workers with accepted hearing loss claims?

For work-related hearing loss, WorkSafe can pay:

  • Reasonable costs of a range of hearing services and devices (medical and like services)
  • An impairment benefit (post 12 November 1997 injuries) or lump sum payment (pre 12 November 1997 injuries)
  • Weekly payments if the worker suffers an incapacity for work resulting from, or materially contributed to by their hearing loss injury.

What is the employer excess?

The employer that is liable for a worker’s hearing loss claim is required to pay an excess being a limited amount of the medical and like expenses for the claim. This amount is indexed annually and can be found at worksafe.vic.gov.au. Employers can select the excess buyout option when starting or renewing their policy, which provides cover for the excess on any accepted claims.

How are hearing loss claims for impairment benefits assessed?

WorkSafe uses guidelines prepared by the National Acoustic Laboratory (NAL), a Commonwealth Government Authority that conducts scientific research into all aspects of hearing.

The NAL guidelines provide:

  • A consistent national standard of measurement
  • Methods to calculate and deduct hearing loss caused by the natural ageing process, and
  • Individual hearing loss values for component frequencies affected by noise exposure.

For injuries on or after 12 November 1997 a worker is entitled to an impairment benefit if they have a work-related hearing loss of 10 per cent or more according to the NAL guidelines. Different eligibility criteria apply for lump sum payments for hearing loss injuries before this date.

For more information, please see the ‘Impairment Benefits explained’ information sheet available at worksafe.vic.gov.au.

What does an employer need to do and what does the worker need to do?

The following table lists the forms that need to be completed to request specific services or entitlements.

Hearing service or device (medical and like services)

  1. Employer and employee complete a Worker’s Injury Claim Form
  2. Employer completes a Employer Injury Claim Report
  3. Employer and employee complete Hearing Loss Questionnaires

Impairment benefit (claims for injuries post November 12, 1997)

  1. Employer and employee complete necessary sections of the Worker’s Claim for Impairment Benefits Form
  2. Employer and employee complete Hearing Loss Questionnaires

Is there a time limit for making a hearing loss claim?

No. It is important that employers retain copies of any audiometric testing or noise level testing of their workers and workplace for as long as possible. If a hearing loss claim is made those test results should be made available to the WorkSafe Agent.