A worker for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in Tennessee is entitled to workers compensation benefits for his high-frequency hearing loss despite there being no mention of “this type of injury” in the American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled.
Orville Lambdin worked for Goodyear Tire in Jackson, Michigan, and then Union City, Tennessee, according to court records. Shortly after retiring in 2009 after 37 years with the company, he filed a workers comp claim for hearing loss.
Goodyear didn’t provide workers with hearing protection until the mid-1980s, according to records, and Mr. Lambdin said he was exposed to “significant noise for all but 40 minutes of a regular eight-hour day.”
While a “significant portion” of Mr. Lambdin’s hearing loss is at frequencies beyond the 3,000-hertz range, the sixth edition of the AMA’s impairment guides provides an impairment rating formula only for hearing loss in the ranges of 500, 1,000, 2000 and up to 3,000 hertz, records show. The AMA guides don’t address hearing losses at frequencies higher than 3,000, even though people typically hear at levels well over 10,000 hertz, according to records.
The medical testimony offered on behalf of Goodyear only included an impairment assessment up to 4,000 hertz, records show.
Without taking hearing loss at frequencies higher than 3,000 hertz into account, an Obion County, Tennessee, Chancery Court judge ruled that Mr. Lambdin was entitled to a 10% permanent partial disability rating based on a 0.9% binaural impairment, or loss of hearing in both ears, established by the AMA guides.
Mr. Lambdin said the ringing in his ears coupled with his hearing loss required him to turn up the TV and car radio “real loud” in order to hear, records show. He also said he was “unable to hear normal conversation when there was background noise.” He filed a motion to amend the decision, leading the court to increase the rating to 30% based on the impairment rating assigned by a surgeon who treated Mr. Lambdin in November 2009, records show.
Goodyear appealed the decision, arguing that the AMA guides “are the exclusive methodology for calculation of the medical impairment rating” and that the surgeon’s testimony “should have been excluded from the evidence,” according to records.
The Tennessee Supreme Court on Thursday affirmed the ruling by the Obion County court.
“The AMA Guides do not make any mention of hearing losses at levels exceeding 3,000 hertz, not even to say that there should be a zero increase in the impairment rating at levels higher than 3,000,” the ruling states. “In that regard, the AMA guides do not ‘cover’ this type of injury. … Costs of this appeal are assessed to Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and its surety.”