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4.2.3 Date of injury - loss of hearing cases
S24 of the SRCA was amended on 1 October 2001 so that PI compensation was payable for an accepted binaural hearing loss of 5% (i.e. 2.5% WPI) or more. This replaced the previous threshold of 20% binaural hearing loss (i.e. 10% WPI). Accordingly, the lower threshold only applies to hearing loss claims with a date of injury after 1 October 2001.
Hearing loss subsequent to discharge
The MRCC has adopted a policy approach whereby deterioration in hearing loss subsequent to cessation of military employment is considered non-compensable. This approach is based on specialist medical advice that once a person is removed from noise exposure (in Commonwealth employment), any exposure damage previously caused by noise trauma would not get any worse. Further advice is that, any deterioration of an individual's hearing once removed from noise exposure can normally be ascribed to the effects of ageing and that such deterioration would have occurred regardless of any previous noise induced hearing loss.
Therefore, where the compensable hearing loss commenced before 1 October 2001 and the member discharged before 1 October 2001, the original threshold of 10% WPI (20% binaural hearing loss) continues to apply throughout the life of the claim.
Delegates should also note, however, that there will be the occasional case where the 'date first sought medical treatment' (i.e. Date of Injury) was after the member left ADF employment. Where, in such cases, the date of injury is after the commencement of the new hearing loss provisions on 1 October 2001, the 2.5% WPI threshold applies. In such cases, the delegate must be satisfied that the assessed hearing loss is due to noise exposure during military service and not a result of noise exposure subsequent to discharge from the military.
Date of first treatment for hearing loss
In the case of hearing loss, the date of first medical treatment can be taken to include any hearing test that indicates a loss of hearing (usually by reference to an earlier test). In the majority of SRCA cases, a hearing test is conducted at the time of discharge. That hearing test can usually be taken to be the date of injury (i.e. first sought medical treatment). If that date is prior to 1 October 2001, the lower 5% binaural hearing loss threshold cannot be applied to the client's hearing impairment unless the exposure to noise continued after 1 October 2001 while the member was still in the ADF.
The date of injury for diseases can also be the date that the disease first resulted in the impairment of the employee (S7(4)(b)). This provision will be more relevant to those older cases where there are no available hearing tests that can reliably be used to indicate hearing loss (i.e. where there is no contemporary date that the client first sought medical treatment). In these cases, MRCC delegates can establish the date of injury from whenever the medical evidence (including the PI assessment) indicates that impairment first resulted from the condition. Bearing in mind the policy outlined above, this will normally be not later than the date of discharge from the ADF (i.e. not later than the removal from the source of the noise exposure). If this predates 1 October 2001, the lower threshold cannot be applied.