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Professional Musicians and Hearing Loss

Professional Musicians and Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a common problem among professional musicians. It isn’t just a problem for rock n’ rollers who keep their amplifiers dialed to eleven. Classical musicians also face a serious risk of long-term ear damage. Degraded hearing can affect a musician’s career, especially if it is serious enough to make playing with others too difficult.

Workers’ compensation for hearing loss

Musicians who have the benefit of working for a regular employer in Nevada should be able to rely upon their employers’ workers’ compensation insurance coverage to provide benefits in the event that work-related hearing loss requires treatment or even a career change. Coverage should be provided regardless of whether the musician is characterized as an employee or an independent contractor, provided the work is regular and the musician hasn’t signed a contract agreeing to be excluded from the broad definition of “employee” under Nevada law.

For a musician who qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits, a key question will be whether the hearing loss arose in the course and scope of employment. An insurer will require an independent evaluation intended to explore alternative sources of the hearing loss. Musicians can take a number of steps to protect their hearing and reduce the chances of a claim being denied:

  • Wear hearing protection, especially when not at work. For example, musicians who are also gun enthusiasts should wear protection while shooting.
  • Get routine hearing tests to establish a record and catch problems early.
  • Avoid performing in loud settings outside of work. For example, an orchestra trumpeter who moonlights in a jazz band probably will face questions about whether the jazz band was responsible for some or all of the hearing loss.

Not all musicians are entitled to workers’ compensation

Of course, most musicians pursue their art as a side job, without a steady employer. Under NRS 616A.110(3) workers’ compensation coverage need not cover a musician who is hired on a casual basis for a gig that doesn’t last more than two consecutive days and doesn’t recur for the same employer. The object of the rule is to carve out special events, like weddings, so their organizers aren’t on the hook for expensive insurance. On its face, the exception wouldn’t put a semi-professional setting like a community theater off the hook. But it likely covers most venues who hire musicians for one or two nights.

Musicians who don’t work for an agency but who earn a steady living doing impromptu gigs may want to consider buying insurance for themselves. The cheapest form of insurance, of course, are custom-made ear plugs designed for musicians. Although initially expensive, they are significantly cheaper than the long-term consequences of ear damage.

GGRM is a Las Vegas law firm

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez represents clients in the Las Vegas area in personal injury and workers’ compensation cases. If you have suffered hearing loss as a consequence of your work as a musician, our attorneys are happy to discuss your legal options with you. For a no-cost attorney consultation, call us today at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.