Wednesday, 08 December 2021

Bill enables audiologists to serve on Work Comp appeals board

SACRAMENTO – The State Senate on Tuesday voted 35-0 to approve a bill by Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) to allow doctors of audiology or practicing clinical Ph.D. audiologists to serve as qualified medical evaluators on the state Workers’ Compensation appeals board to consider cases involving hearing-impaired workers.

Existing law requires the administrative director of the state Division of Workers' Compensation to appoint physicians to two-year terms as qualified medical evaluators in each of the respective specialties, for the evaluation of medical-legal issues that may arise in disputed workers compensation cases.

In asking her colleagues to approve her bill (SB 557) Tuesday, Wiggins said that “audiologists are the most qualified professionals to determine whether hearing loss would impair a worker’s ability or whether hearing loss was secondary to noise exposure on the job.”

The California Academy of Audiologists, which is sponsoring SB 557, notes that other allied health professionals, even those without doctorates such as acupuncturists, can serve as qualified medical examiners (they also cite chiropractors, optometrists and psychologists. The academy asserts that “it stands to reason that audiologists should be able to do the same for hearing loss.”

“Including audiologists as experts in Workers' Comp cases will improve consumer access to professionals with special training in the assessment of hearing loss,” Wiggins said, “as well as a detailed understanding of the effects of damaging influences on the auditory mechanism that may occur in various work settings.”

Now that it has been approved by the full Senate, SB 557 next heads to the Assembly for consideration.

Wiggins represents the 2nd Senate District, which includes parts or all of Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties. Visit her Web site at




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