The International Tinnitus Journal

The International Tinnitus Journal

Official Journal of the Neurootological and Equilibriometric Society
Official Journal of the Brazil Federal District Otorhinolaryngologist Society

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ISSN: 0946-5448

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Medicolegal Decision Making in Noise-Induced Hearing Loss-Related Tinnitus

Author(s): Philippe H. Dejonckere and Jean Lebac

In some patients with occupational noise-induced hearing loss, a significant aspect of the handicap concerns the concomitant tinnitus; thus, this disorder must be considered in evaluating a disability percentage in the insurance context. The main difficulty comes from the lack of objective measures for tinnitus. To reach a maximum of medicolegal objectivity, a system was developed within the Belgian Institute of Occupational Disorders (Brussels) in the form of a four-level decision structure, after exhaustive but noninvasive assessment of patients. An aggregate of multiple-choice responses (affirmative, neutral, negative) to elementary questions leads to a decision of the next level, which in tum determines-together with the other decisions at the same level- the conclusion at a still higher level. A positive outcome on all four level-3 questions is required for recognition of noise-induced hearing loss-related tinnitus as an occupational disorder and for financial compensation (final decision, level 4). We assessed 10 exemplary files on which this system was applied by four experts rating independently. A variant of Cohen's Kappa for multiple raters demonstrated high interrater consistency at the fIrst level . In all cases, the decisions at levels 3 and 4 were identical. In this way, the final medicolegal decision relies on standardized criteria and becomes perfectly transparent