Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in the case of Harry F. Hill v. Latrobe Steel Corp., No. A-91367.
Robert H. Slone, Mahady & Mahady, for petitioner.
H. Reginald Belden, Jr., Stewart, Belden and Belden, for respondent.
Judges Craig and McGinley, and Senior Judge Narick, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Senior Judge Narick.
[ 117 Pa. Commw. Page 253]
In this workmen's compensation case, Harry Hill (Claimant) questions a reversal by the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) of a referee's decision awarding benefits to Claimant pursuant to Section 306(c)(8) of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act (Act), Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, 77 P.S. § 513(8). We reverse.
Claimant was employed by Latrobe Steel Corporation (Employer) for approximately 31 years as a furnace operator. The record reveals that Claimant's work environment required him to be exposed to constant loud noises. On February 5, 1982, Claimant retired, notifying Employer of his hearing problem. On January 30, 1985, Claimant filed a petition for benefits alleging a complete loss of hearing in both ears for all practical intents and purposes as a result of his exposure during the course of his employment to excessive noise levels.
The referee, based upon the medical and lay witness testimony received, concluded that Claimant had suffered a complete loss of hearing in both ears for all practical intents and purposes. Employer appealed and the Board reversed the referee's decision concluding that the medical testimony of record did not establish a complete loss of hearing for all practical intents and purposes.
The sole issue before us is whether the testimony of record establishes that Claimant suffered a complete loss of hearing in both ears for all practical intents and purposes as a result of Claimant's exposure during the course of his employment to excessive noise levels. Claimant maintains that the referee's decision was supported by substantial evidence; and therefore, the Board erred in denying benefits.
[ 117 Pa. Commw. Page 254]
In reviewing the decision of the Board, our scope of review is limited to a determination of whether constitutional rights have been violated, an error of law has been committed or whether necessary findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence. Section 704 of the Administrative Agency Law, 2 Pa. C. S. § 704. See Sandra Miller v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Pocono Hospital), 114 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 405, 539 A.2d 18 (1988). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Grabish v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Trueform Foundations, Inc.), 70 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 542, 453 A.2d 710 (1982).
In order to address the issue presented for our resolution on appeal, a close examination of the testimony of record is required. At the hearing before the referee, Claimant testified that he has difficulty hearing and understanding what is being said to him and that where there is background noise or other persons talking he has extreme difficulty understanding what is being said. Claimant also introduced the testimony of several witnesses to verify the high noise levels which existed in his work environment. The sole medical evidence presented consisted of Claimant's audiologist, Dr. Leo Doerfler. The testimony of Dr. Doerfler established that Claimant was examined on April 19, 1984 and diagnosed as suffering from a moderate to severe bilaterally symmetrical sensory neural hearing loss. Dr. Doerfler explained this type of hearing loss as follows:
The two ears are essentially equivalent in their loss. They are very close to each other on every measure. This is a handicapping type of hearing loss, handicapping in two ways: speech will be fainter if it is audible to him at all, but ...