Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, in case of William F. Pare v. Lancaster County Prison, No. A-87599.
Juanita C. Griffing, for petitioner.
Charles E. Wasilefski, with him, Joseph C. Phillips, Peters & Wasilefski, for Lancaster County Prison, respondent/employer.
W. Jeffrey Sidebottom, Barley, Snyder, Cooper & Barber, for Lancaster County Prison, by its insurance carrier.
Judges Craig and Colins, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Colins.
[ 97 Pa. Commw. Page 436]
William F. Pare (claimant) appeals an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) which reversed a referee's decision awarding claimant benefits for specific loss of hearing due to claimant's work environment at Lancaster County Prison. The Board determined that claimant had not met his burden of showing a connection between his hearing loss and his employment. We disagree and find that the Board exceeded its scope of review in this case.
The Board's scope of review is limited to a determination of whether an error of law has been committed or whether a necessary finding of fact of the referee was unsupported by substantial evidence. Rowan v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 58 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 56, 426 A.2d 1304 (1981). To establish a specific loss of hearing, claimant must demonstrate that he has suffered a complete loss of hearing for all practical intents and purposes. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board v. Hartlieb, 465 Pa. 249, 348 A.2d 746 (1976); Babcock & Wilcox and Insurance Co. of North America v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Marshall), 97 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 45, 508 A.2d
[ 97 Pa. Commw. Page 4371303]
(1986). This loss can be caused by one outburst or by protracted exposure to noise. See Hinkle v. H.J. Heinz Company, 462 Pa. 111, 337 A.2d 907 (1975).
Evidence before the referee included claimant's testimony that he was required by the Lancaster County Prison to become proficient in the use of firearms and he, therefore, attended weekly firing practice sessions which lasted three to five hours. He further testified that there was loud slamming of metal doors around his office. Soon after his exposure to these conditions, claimant stated, he heard loud ringing in both ears and had trouble hearing which became progressively worse and he ultimately required the use of a hearing aid. Claimant is alleging cumulative trauma and a total loss of hearing as of April 2, 1981, when his treating physician advised him of his substantial hearing loss.
Several witnesses testified about the high noise level at the prison. Reverend Eugene Strebel, prison chaplain, testified that the prison is constantly noisy. These noises, the chaplain further testifed, emanate from the electrified doors which sound like a rifle shot when opened and closed, and from the public address system which plays loudly all day long.
June Szabo, a registered nurse performing studies at the prison, testified that the noise level was so loud that when she left the prison confines, her head would be ringing. She further testifed that she had to have the music turned off or stuff a rag into the paging system when she went into certain areas because both were so loud. This witness also stated that ...