Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a growing problem in today’s noisy world. Our ears are constantly assaulted by noise throughout our daily lives. Excessive noise is a particular problem in many workplaces. Fortunately, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) provides some financial support for those affected by NIHL in the workplace.
Workplaces that may expose your hearing to prolonged levels of excessive noise include:
- Construction workers
- Aircraft engineers
- Nightclub and restaurant staff
The first step you need to take if nose levels in your workplace bother you is to wear hearing protection. Don’t be afraid to wear hearing protection just because others around you aren’t looking after their hearing. You may be more sensitive to sound than your colleagues or it may be that some of the old bravado in certain industries blocks your colleagues from taking better care of their hearing.
Employers are required by law to provide a safe work environment and that includes monitoring noise levels and providing ear protection where necessary. House of Hearing provides custom-made ear plugs specially designed for people such as musicians who work in noisy jobs.
If you have hearing loss and you believe it is due to your work environment then the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) may be able to fund hearing aids and provide some financial compensation.
What is the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)?
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) is an independent agency operating under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labour. It provides liability insurance and compensation to more than 5 million people throughout Ontario.
Most Ontario employers and businesses must sign up with and pay premiums to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). These premiums protect employers against being sued by injured workers. The cover also provides compensation and support for employees in the event of a workplace injury.
What are the WSIB entitlement criteria?
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) accepts claims for Noise-induced Hearing Loss dating back to January 2nd, 1990 provided that:
- You were exposed to 90 decibels (dB) of noise on the “A” scale for 8 hours per day for a minimum of 5 years, or the equivalent. For example, exposure to 92 dB for 6 hours a day for 5 years, or to 92 dB for 8 hours per day for 2.5 years would both be considered equivalent to exposure to 90 dB for 8 hours a day for 5 years.
- You have a noise-induced hearing loss averaging at least 22.5 dB in each ear in the 4 speech frequencies.
Your hearing loss must have occurred within Ontario. The WSIB will not cover you for any noise-induced hearing loss that occurred outside the province.
Where you experienced some noise exposure within Ontario the WSIB will determine the degree of your total impairment and the percentage that occurred within Ontario and use those figures to determine any entitlement to compensation. Different policies apply to hearing loss occurring before January 2nd, 1990.
How will WSIB know my hearing loss is noise induced?
To support your claim you will need to undergo an audiogram. An audiogram measures hearing loss and will indicate whether your hearing loss is due to workplace noise or the result of normal ageing. You will need to avoid your workplace noise for at least 48 hours before undergoing an audiogram.
An audiogram measures your hearing sensitivity at 4 important frequency levels. These are 500, 1000, 2000 and 3000 Hertz (Hz) and are particularly important for speech comprehension.
Where NIHL is the cause an audiogram will usually indicate:
- Normal, or nearly normal hearing at the low frequencies (500-1000 Hz)
- Hearing loss in the range of 3000 to 6000 Hz
- A noticeable dip or “notch” at 4000 Hz
In most cases noise-induced hearing loss usually affects both ears to a similar degree.
What benefits may I be eligible for?
If the WSIB accepts your claim for noise-induced hearing loss you will be eligible for health-care benefits including the cost of hearing aids and batteries. If the date of your hearing loss is after January 2, 1990, and you have an average hearing loss of 26.25 dB in both ears, or an average hearing loss of 25 dB in your better ear and 32.5 dB in your worse ear, you may be entitled to an additional non-economic loss (NEL) benefit.
This recognises the permanent impact hearing loss can have on your life beyond the workplace. Unfortunately, these awards tend to be quite low.
If your hearing loss is so high that you can no longer work in the job you may also be eligible for Loss of Earnings compensation and Work Transition services to help you return to work.
Many people resist getting their hearing tested or doing anything about hearing loss. This can be a big mistake with significant impacts on both your physical and mental health. In fact, hearing loss may also lead to an average drop of $30,000 in your income. Unfortunately, noise induced hearing loss is not treatable with medicines or surgery.
The good news is that hearing aids can almost completely reverse this income drop. House of Hearing supplies a wide range of hearing aids including those approved by the WSIB. We make sure your hearing aids are right for you and will also fit and optimise them for your specific requirements and lifestyle.
Outcome of applying
The decision whether you meet the criteria is made by the WSIB’s appointed audiologist. If you have any questions about the outcome we can provide support for you as you deal with the challenging process of coming to terms with hearing loss.