A recent article published in the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine that studied 425 fire fighters from three states showed that more than 40% of the fire fighters had hearing loss in the noise-sensitive frequencies (4 and 6 kHz). Fire fighters with longer years in fire services demonstrated significantly worse hearing. The conclusion was that noise-induced hearing loss was prevalent and that the use of hearing protection devices had to be increased.
Fire fighters and police officers are required to have a base line audiogram when hired, and tests for hearing loss are supposed to be a part of the required annual heart/lung physical exam. While the employer may be good about accepting a hearing loss claim and paying for hearing aids, many public employers do not routinely schedule the claimant for a rating exam to determine a permanent partial disability award.
The AMA Guides to Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, 5th edition, is used by an assigned rating doctor to find a whole person percentage of impairment. That percentage is then used along with the injured worker’s age, and wages at the time the occupational hearing loss claim is filed to come up with a dollar settlement amount.
Not all hearing loss will result in a ratable impairment or a settlement. If you would like me to submit your most recent audiogram to a rating doctor for his calculation of your impairment, I can have this done for a reduced fee from the doctor and a greatly reduced attorney fee if it turns out that you are entitled to a settlement. If the reviewing doctor tells me that you do have a ratable impairment, I would then have to ask the adjuster to schedule and pay for a formal rating. If the reviewing doctor tells me you don’t have a ratable impairment, you would not owe me an attorney fee, and would only be out the cost of the review by the doctor.