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102.555 Occupational deafness; definitions.
(1) In this section:
(a) "Noise" means sound capable of producing occupational deafness.
(b) "Noisy employment" means employment in the performance of which an employee is subjected to noise.
(c) "Occupational deafness" means permanent partial or permanent total loss of hearing of one or both ears due to prolonged exposure to noise in employment.
(2) No benefits shall be payable for temporary total or temporary partial disability under this chapter for loss of hearing due to prolonged exposure to noise.
(3) An employee who because of occupational deafness is transferred by his or her employer to other noisy employment and thereby sustains actual wage loss shall be compensated at the rate provided in s. 102.43 (2), not exceeding $7,000 in the aggregate from all employers. "Time of injury", "occurrence of injury", and "date of injury" in such case mean the date of wage loss.
(4) Subject to the limitations provided in this section, there shall be payable for total occupational deafness of one ear, 36 weeks of compensation; for total occupational deafness of both ears, 216 weeks of compensation; and for partial occupational deafness, compensation shall bear such relation to that named in this section as disabilities bear to the maximum disabilities provided in this section. In cases covered by this subsection, "time of injury", "occurrence of injury", or "date of injury" shall, at the option of the employee, be the date of occurrence of any of the following events to an employee:
(a) Transfer to nonnoisy employment by an employer whose employment has caused occupational deafness;
(b) The last day actually worked before retiring, regardless of vacation pay or time, sick leave or any other benefit to which the employee is entitled;
(c) Termination of the employer-employee relationship; or
(d) Layoff, provided the layoff is complete and continuous for 6 months.
(5) No claim under sub. (4) may be filed until 7 consecutive days of removal from noisy employment after the time of injury except that under sub. (4) (d) the 7 consecutive days' period may commence within the last 2 months of layoff.
(6) The limitation provisions in this chapter shall control claims arising under this section. Such provisions shall run from the first date upon which claim may be filed, or from the date of subsequent death, provided that no claim shall accrue to any dependent unless an award has been issued or hearing tests have been conducted by a competent medical specialist after the employee has been removed from the noisy environment for a period of 2 months.
(7) No payment shall be made to an employee under this section unless the employee shall have worked in noisy employment for a total period of at least 90 days for the employer from whom the employee claims compensation.
(8) An employer is liable for the entire occupational deafness to which his or her employment has contributed; but if previous deafness is established by a hearing test or other competent evidence, whether or not the employee was exposed to noise within the 2 months preceding such test, the employer is not liable for previous loss so established nor is the employer liable for any loss for which compensation has previously been paid or awarded.
(9) Any amount paid to an employee under this section by any employer shall be credited against compensation payable by any employer to such employee for occupational deafness under subs. (3) and (4). No employee shall in the aggregate receive greater compensation from any or all employers for occupational deafness than that provided in this section for total occupational deafness.
(10) No compensation may be paid for tinnitus unless a hearing test demonstrates a compensable hearing loss other than tinnitus. For injuries occurring on or after January 1, 1992, no compensation may be paid for tinnitus.
(11) Compensation under s. 102.66 for permanent partial disability due to occupational deafness may be paid only if the loss of hearing exceeds 20% of binaural hearing loss.
(a) An employer, the department, or the division is not liable for the expense of any examination or test for hearing loss, any evaluation of such an exam or test, any medical treatment for improving or restoring hearing, or any hearing aid to relieve the effect of hearing loss unless it is determined that compensation for occupational deafness is payable under sub. (3), (4), or (11).
NOTE: Par. (a) is shown as amended eff. 1-1-16 by 2015 Wis. Act 55. Prior to 1-1-16 it reads:
(a) An employer or the department is not liable for the expense of any examination or test for hearing loss, any evaluation of such an exam or test, any medical treatment for improving or restoring hearing, or any hearing aid to relieve the effect of hearing loss unless it is determined that compensation for occupational deafness is payable under sub. (3), (4), or (11).
(b) For a case of occupational deafness in which the date of injury is on or after April 1, 2008, this subsection applies beginning on that date. Notwithstanding ss. 102.03 (4) and 102.17 (4), for a case of occupational deafness in which the date of injury is before April 1, 2008, this subsection applies beginning on January 1, 2012.
History: 1971 c. 148; 1973 c. 150; 1975 c. 147, 199, 200; 1977 c. 195; 1979 c. 278; 1981 c. 92; 1983 a. 98; 1985 a. 83; 1991 a. 85; 2007 a. 185; 2009 a. 206; 2015 a. 55.
Cross-reference: See also s. DWD 80.25, Wis. adm. code.
Committee Note, 1971: Where an employer discontinues a noisy operation and transfers the employees to nonnoisy employment, they have been unable to make claim for occupational deafness until the conditions of sub. (b), (c) or (d) were met. The employee will now have the option of filing a claim at the time of transfer at the current rate of compensation with a 2-1/2% reduction for each year of age over 50 or waiting until he meets the conditions of sub. (b), (c) or (d) when he may file claim at the then-current rate of compensation with a 1/2% reduction for each year of age over 50. [Bill 371-A]
It is a prerequisite for an award of benefits under sub. (10) that the employee must have suffered some compensable hearing loss other than tinnitus; sub. (10) does not require a compensable hearing loss in both ears or in a particular ear. General Castings Corporation v. LIRC, 152 Wis. 2d 631, 449 N.W.2d 619 (Ct. App. 1989).
Agency interpretation and application of sub. (8) is discussed. Harnischfeger Corporation v. LIRC, 196 Wis. 2d 650, 539 N.W.2d 335 (1995), 93-0947.