Under the Return to Work Act 2014 a worker can make a claim for compensation for tinnitus. The tinnitus must be work related. Commonly, a claim for tinnitus is made the same time a worker makes a claim for work related hearing loss, called noise induced hearing loss (NIHL).

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a physical condition, and can be heard as a ringing, buzzing, hissing, whistling, throbbing, booming, clicking or roaring type noise.

Nearly 1 in every 5 people suffers from some from of tinnitus.

Tinnitus has many causes, including noise exposure, ear conditions, head, spine or neck trauma or surgery, viral infections and elevated stress.

It is not a disease and tinnitus is not life threatening.

Tinnitus and Worker’s Compensation Claims

In South Australia, a claim can be made for work related tinnitus under the workers compensation legislation.

Commonly, a claim for tinnitus is made at the same time as a claim for noise induced hearing loss. Tinnitus does not cause hearing loss, though it is often present with a hearing loss.

Tinnitus is assessed by an Ear, Noise and Throat specialist. The tinnitus must be assessed as severe to attract any impairment percentage points, known as percentage of whole person impairment (WPI).

Up to 5 % WPI points can be allocated for work related tinnitus alone. If the tinnitus is not work related then it cannot be included in calculating the work related impairment.

Where a worker suffers at least a 5% WPI for NIHL and/or tinnitus they are entitled to lump sum compensation.

The Impairment Assessment Guidelines provide the following example of a worker suffering noise induced hearing loss with moderate tinnitus:

A 55 year-old man, a boilermaker for 30 years, gave a history of progressive hearing loss and tinnitus. The tinnitus was present most days, interfering with concentration and occasionally interfering with sleep when it could not be dampened with extraneous noise.

The assessor has assessed the tinnitus as moderately severe.

The external auditory canals and tympanic membranes were normal. Rinne test was positive (air conduction better than bone conduction) bilaterally and the Weber test result was central. Clinical assessment of hearing was consistent with results of pure tone audiometry, which showed a bilateral sensorineural hearing loss consistent with the dose and duration of significant noise.

The assessor diagnosed noise induced hearing loss with moderately severe tinnitus. The assessor included all frequencies in this assessment as there was no other explanation identified to account for this symmetrical loss apart from NIHL.

Presbyacusis correction does not apply because the worker is less than 56 years of age.

In the above example, the worker suffered a 20% NIHL caused by work related noise exposure.

The worker was also assessed as suffering severe tinnitus causing a 4% WPI.

In summary:

NIHL              20.1% hearing loss

Tinnitus           4% WPI

Total                24.1% compensable impairment (equivalent to 12% WPI).

The worker is entitled to lump sum compensation for a 12% WPI.

Turner Freeman has expert workers compensation lawyers who are able to advise and act for you in relation to your claim for hearing loss and/or tinnitus. If you have worked in noisy employment and suffer hearing loss and/or tinnitus please contact our office on 8213 1000 to discuss your entitlement to claim.