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Noise and seafarer’s hearing loss

Noise and seafarer’s hearing loss

Noise is a major health hazard to seafarers.

It causes hearing loss over years of being exposed to various sources like large diesel engines, turbines, cargo cranes, and other equipment.

Hearing loss caused by noise exposure is called sensorineural, a type of hearing loss related to problems in the inner ear.

Noise, over time, can cause damage to the nerve cells and small hairs in the inner ear that send sound signals to the brain.

A 10-year pre-employment medical (PEME) study released in March 2016 by the UK P&I Club has found a dramatic increase in the incidence of hearing defects as the main reason for crew failing their pre-employment medical checks.

Hearing defects have increased by 40% and are now the third main cause of PEME failure.

Typically, crew with poor audiometry results can also display signs of mild to moderate high frequency hearing loss.

Those seafarers working in engine rooms had a higher tendency to experience hearing disabilities.

Hearing loss is a very real possibility but is one of those types of occupational illness that are not usually immediately obvious.

The effects of exposure to engine noise over the years more often than not appear as the seafarer approaches retirement age.

In the event that such hearing loss was detected during the PEME, the seafarer will not automatically receive medical benefits even if he is connected with the company for a long period of time.

The seafarer must complain of the illness during the effectivity of the contract which leads to his medical repatriation. Otherwise, it will be a case of finished contract disqualifying him for medical benefits.

Under the POEA Contract, total deafness of both ears is assessed as a Grade “3” disability.

Despite said unfortunate condition, the seafarer will not be given total permanent disability benefits.

The contract fails to recognize the Supreme Court’s ruling “it is not the injury which is compensated, but rather it is the incapacity to work resulting in the impairment of one’s earning capacity.

Disability need not render the seafarer absolutely helpless or feeble to be compensable; it is enough that it incapacitates to perform his customary work.”

A seafarer suffering from total deafness will be considered more of a liability than an asset if he is allowed to go on board the vessel.

In cases of medical repatriation due to hearing problems, failure to comply with the 3 day reportorial rule found under the POEA Contract will lead to denial of claims.

He must also show that he was physically incapacitated to be medically examined by a company-designated physician that would have justified his non-compliance with the mandatory three-day period. (Ricasata vs. Cargo Safeway, G.R. No. 208896, April 6, 2016)

If the seafarer suspects that he has hearing loss because of noise exposure on the job, he should see a doctor before disembarkation and get medical records that prove it was most likely caused by years of exposure at work.

Losing hearing is a serious medical condition and it impacts one’s well-being.