Noise in the Workplace: What to Do in Case of Occupational Deafness

Friday, 2nd February 2018

Noise in the Workplace: What to Do in Case of Occupational Deafness

Working in certain jobs may lead to a decrease in hearing acuity or even total hearing loss. In Québec alone, there are nearly 1,500 new cases of occupational deafness that are recognized and compensated by the CNESST (formerly the CSST). But what steps can be taken in the event of occupational deafness? How can you assert your rights to hearing aids or even compensation?

The Employer’s Obligations

In Quebec, the law requires that employers:

- register with the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail and pay insurance premiums in periodic installments to Revenu Quebec

- implement all the preventive, first-aid, and relief measures required by their line of business. In particular, employers must inform their employees of the dangers involved, provide training allowing them to protect themselves, and supply the appropriate equipment.

Despite the precautions taken, a job may still affect an employee’s hearing abilities to the point of making them partially hearing impaired or totally deaf.

The Steps to Take to Have Occupational Deafness Recognized

In accordance with the provisions of Section 272, a worker has six months to report a work-related injury once they are made aware of it, whether they learn about it from an occupational physician or their family doctor. They must file a claim in due form to the Commission using the form provided for this purpose. Case law considers that the employee is made aware that they have sustained a work-related injury when the doctor informs them of the possibility that their injury is of occupational origin.

On the claim form, the worker must mention the name and contact information of the employer(s) for whom they performed the work likely to have caused their work-related injury. Beyond the six-month deadline, the request may be considered admissible if the worker is able to provide reasonable grounds that may justify the delay.

The Conditions for Eligibility

The CNESST recognizes occupational deafness on several conditions:

- A diagnosis of sensorineural deafness with hearing impairment must be established.

- The worker must have worked at one or more jobs that exposed them to excessive noise:

    - They must show proof that they worked at a job that exposed them to excessive noise levels on a daily basis over a continuous period of at least two years (they may have worked for different employers, provided that this continuity is respected).

    - The CNESST considers excessive noise to be any daily exposure to noise levels greater than the limits permitted by Sections 131 and 134 of the Regulation Respecting Occupational Health and Safety. 

- The worker must have contributed to the CSST/CNESST plan. Active workers and retirees can take these steps.

However, the eligibility criteria are assessed on a case-by-case basis, as the texts don’t specify: 

- a permissible threshold concerning the injury

- exposure time

The Rights of Workers Suffering From Occupational Deafness

Once the occupational deafness has been recognized, the CNESST covers:

- the cost of the hearing assessments

- one or two latest-generation hearing aids every five years

- the costs of services, cleaning products, and batteries for the hearing aids

- in certain cases, the costs of assistive listening devices (listening systems for the television, telephone, etc.)

They may also pay compensation if the hearing loss is at least 30 dB HL at 500, 1000, 2000, and 4000 Hz in the affected ear. 

Employees of companies aren’t the only beneficiaries of the benefits of the AIAOD (Act Respecting Industrial Accidents and Occupational Diseases). Self-employed workers, directors of companies, and volunteers aren’t required to register with the CNESST, but they can voluntarily subscribe to optional personal protection in order to benefit from the protections offered by the AIAOD.

* The hearing aids illustrated on this page may not fit your needs. An evaluation by an Audioprosthetist is required to determine the type of aid best suited for your type of hearing loss.