My Hearing Was Affected at Work, What do I Do?

According to Statistics Canada, 42% of all Canadians currently work (or have worked) in environments that required them to raise their voice to speak to somebody at an arm’s length away from them.

(For context, that’s roughly the same background noise level as a snow blower. That’s pretty loud – and not good for your ears.)

In these environments, proper hearing protection is a must; noise-induced hearing loss is most commonly caused by overexposure to moderate and loud noises.

However, it’s very common for hearing damage to occur slowly over time, which means that it might take a while for you to notice the effects.

If you’ve noticed any of the following, you might have suffered some degree of noise-induced hearing loss:

  • A constant ringing or buzzing in your ears
  • Sounds seem muffled or not as clear as they used to be
  • You’re noticing that you have difficulty understanding speech, particularly over the phone
  • You have difficulty following conversations if there is background noise (such as music or the TV)
  • You’re avoiding socializing with friends and colleagues
  • You often get confused about what direction sound is coming from.

If you have noticed any of these symptoms, speak to your Audiologist right away.

If you live in Ontario and have suffered a noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) as a result of your workplace environment, here’s what you can do:

The first thing you should do is to arrange an independent, unbiased assessment of your hearing to establish a valid baseline audiogram. (There’s normally a fee of between $50.00 to $150.00 for this, but you can typically claim this expense on your medical benefits or income tax.)

Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) officially recognizes noise induced hearing loss as an occupational disease that can be compensated for by the WSIB.

As defined in the WSIB, NIHL is defined as a “permanent bilateral hearing loss resulting from being exposed to high levels of noise for a long time.” Basically, if you have worked in industry full time for five years, and your average pure tone average threshold exceeds 22.5 dB, you may qualify for compensation.

The NIHL program via WSIB is meant to assist workers in receiving the services and equipment that they require to address hearing loss and improve long-term quality of life.

(Before starting a WSIB claim, be ready to describe the symptoms and when you first became aware of the problem. It also helps if you can provide detailed information about your employment including dates and any relevant documents, as well as the names and addresses of any audiologists you have seen regarding your hearing loss. A WSIB decision on an NIHL claim can vary depending on how long it takes to assemble and evaluate workplace exposure information, medical reports, and hearing test results, so it helps to give them everything they need quickly.)

If you’ve been affected by NIHL because of your occupation, then we advise that you get in contact with Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW).

OHCOW can act as a liaison between the you and WSIB (Workplace Safety & Insurance Board) to make the process easier as you attempt to obtain a NIHL claim.

They’ll also help you arrange to get a calculated formula of your actual pure tone average thresholds (a behavioural test used to measure hearing sensitivity). Any knowledgeable audiologist can calculate this for you.

At Schneiker, we believe that seeking assistance when you’re making a WSIB claim for hearing loss is the quickest (and easiest) way of getting the entitlement you are owed.

If you’d like to find out more about OHCOW and how they can help with NIHL claims, here’s an in-depth PDF on hearing loss, the workplace and WSIB claims.