Hearing Loss in PA Not Compensable if Less Than 10% Binaurally

It is funny how, after relatively few PA workers’ compensation hearing loss cases were decided by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, now, all of a sudden, it seems like every case decided by the Court is on this issue.

In our previous blog post, we mentioned that an injured worker in PA must have at least a 10% “binaural” (both ears) hearing impairment to receive any workers’ compensation benefits for a work-related loss of hearing. Since the statute clearly states that the loss of hearing is to be evaluated by looking at the effect on both ears, what happens if the loss is just in one ear? Recently, the Court addressed this very issue in Duncannon Borough v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Bruno).

Here, the injured worker, a police officer, was in a motor vehicle accident while in the scope and course of his employment. As a result of this accident, in addition to other injuries, he suffered a 31.88% hearing impairment to his right ear. Calculated “binaurally,” the hearing impairment was below the 10% threshold. The Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) granted the Review Petition, finding that the injury to the single ear did not need to be calculated binaurally. This was affirmed by the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB).

On appeal, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania reversed, denying the Review Petition. The Court found that, although one can receive PA workers’ compensation benefits for a loss of hearing in only one ear, the threshold of 10%, binaurally, still must be reached before the injured worker is eligible to receive any PA workers’ comp benefits for a work-related loss of hearing.