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Experience of workers with hearing loss in the NSW workers compensation system

The perspective of workers with a work-related hearing loss claim was explored in depth through interviews conducted by the Social Research Centre.  The qualitative research involved sixteen face-to-face interviews with people who had made a claim for industrial hearing loss in the NSW workers compensation scheme to provide in depth evidence of their personal experience.

Key interview findings

  • For most workers hearing loss was gradual, becoming aware their hearing had deteriorated when having trouble hearing the TV or when spouses alerted them. Tinnitus was also a common early sign of hearing loss.
  • Although workers understood the role of workers compensation, none of the interviewees were aware that industrial hearing loss was potentially compensable, finding this out usually from audiologists, lawyers and employers.
  • Workers generally expressed high levels of satisfaction with the claims process due to their low expectations of success.
  • Workers considered the process largely stress-free as they felt well supported by someone knowledgeable about the process, usually a lawyer.
  • Some claims were approved within a few weeks   and some took around 12-18 months.
  • Workers felt a level of unease because the employer they considered responsible for the hearing loss were either no longer in business or not their current employer, who would be the one facing liability.
  • Most workers were satisfied with their hearing aid, which was recommended by their audiologist.

Next steps

SIRA is reviewing how claims for work-related hearing loss are made in the NSW workers compensation system.

These insights gained from these interviews, along with outcomes from a public consultation of stakeholder groups and the findings from a rapid review will inform SIRA’s work.