Hearing and Vision Loss

Work accidents can sometimes cause damage to the ears or eyes. Hearing or vision can be impaired or completely lost as a result of events like:

  • An accident due to machinery failure
  • Brain damage after a fall
  • Long-term exposure (like cataracts from UV radiation, or hearing loss from dangerously high noise levels)
  • If you’ve lost the ability to see or hear because of work conditions, or have had an eye or ear removed due to a workplace accident, you may be entitled to compensation.

I lost the ability to see in one (or both) of my eyes.

Every year over 700,000 people in the US experience eye injuries at work. So it’s not surprising that the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has clear guidelines on how to handle an eye injury at work.

Under Illinois law, visual impairment is different than losing an eye after an accident. If your eye had to be removed following an injury, you are entitled to 173 weeks (about 3 years and 4 months) of permanent partial disability payments in addition to compensation for medical expenses.

Loss of vision (without the loss of an eye) is described in different levels, but there is no true standard. The Supreme Court has allowed this chart (see below) in a case regarding vision loss. The chart can be used to assess the severity of visual impairment and what corresponding level of disability compensation a person can receive. While being fully blind (seen below as 20/200) means you may be labeled as having a total disability, if you have not become legally blind as a result of work it’s likely that you will only be awarded permanent partial disability benefits.

Vision impairment chart

If you have been labeled completely blind due to working conditions, you may be entitled to 162 weeks (more than 3 years) of payments.

I lost the ability to hear in one (or both) of my ears.

Hearing loss is calculated by an audio frequency test that determines what sounds an individual can hear. The test uses 1000, 2000, and 3000 Hz frequencies and hearing losses at each range are averaged. Any score above 30 decibels (dB) can be eligible for workers’ compensation. A loss of 85 dB or higher is considered total loss of hearing.

Under the Workers’ Compensation Act, if you have experienced total hearing loss in one ear, you may be eligible for 54 weeks of permanent partial disability (just over a year). If loss occurred in both ears, this is increased to 215 weeks (more than 4 years).

Another law, the Occupational Disease Act, awards workers 100 weeks of disability for complete loss in one ear. Usually, workers’ compensation applies when the loss is due to accident, but the Occupational Disease Act applies when progressive loss occurs over time with exposure related to your job.

If you have questions regarding your work-related vision or hearing loss, give the Epstein Law Firm a call at 773-522-7000 , or contact Jack Epstein for a free case evaluation. If you’ve been injured at work, you deserve compensation.

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