Many American workers are exposed to dangerous levels of noise on-the-job, which can result in hearing loss. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workers who are exposed to harmful chemicals on the job often suffer serious adverse effects if they are also exposed to elevated levels of noise, including serious hearing loss as a result of exposure. Chemical exposure in the workplace may be unintentionally, and even unknowingly, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. They are commonly found in pesticides, solvents, and certain medications.
Are You at Risk?
The link between chemical exposure and hearing loss is still not completely understood, but researchers have identified ototoxicants as a class of chemicals that are associated with increased hearing loss. Men and women who are employed in certain industries are at a greater risk than the public for being exposed to ototoxicants, including:
- Fueling of vehicles or aircraft
- Fabricated metal
- Leather work
- Apparel and garment
- Furniture and furniture products
- Solar cells
- Electrical equipment
- Appliances and batteries or other electronic components
- Transportation equipment
- Ship building
- Pesticide spraying
- Weapons/munitions firing
According to OSHA, there are five subtypes of ototoxicants, including pharmaceuticals, asphyxiants, such as tobacco smoke and other inhalable compounds, solvents, nitriles, and metals. Research on the effects of ototoxicants and noise exposure is limited because there is no way to distinguish through traditional hearing tests whether hearing loss is caused by exposure to excessive volume, chemicals, or a bit of both.
How Ototoxicants Affect Hearing
Workers can be exposed to ototoxicants in several ways, and the severity of harm correlates with the length of time a person is exposed, and the amount of chemicals they are exposed to. Other factors, such as a person’s age, can contribute to the severity of the health effects caused by ototoxic chemicals.
Because ototoxicants affect the key portion of a person’s auditory system in not just their ears, but also the brain itself, a person’s hearing is impacted in a unique way. Sounds are not only quieter, but they are also less perceptible. It can be harder for a person to distinguish voices from background noises if they have a similar sound frequency. Also, it can be hard for a person to determine where a sound is coming from.
How to Reduce Your Risk
Determine whether there are ototoxicants in your workplace by reviewing Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for ototoxic chemicals. You may want to suggest that your employer replace hazardous chemicals with less toxic alternatives. If that is not feasible, engineering controls can be used to diminish exposure. It is helpful to always wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Columbia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Advocate for Injured Workers
If you suffer from work-related hearing loss or other symptoms that you suspect may be the result of chemical or noise exposure, the experienced Columbia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. can help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation by calling 803-929-3600 or by filling out our online contact form.
With six office locations throughout South Carolina, we represent injured workers in Columbia, Aiken, Camden, Sumter, Orangeburg, Greenville, Florence, Beaufort, Irmo, Spartanburg, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, West Columbia, Rock Hill, Charleston, Lexington, Winnsboro, Summerville, and throughout the counties of Lexington County, Richland County, Sumter County, Charleston County, Aiken County, Florence County, Lancaster County, York County, Spartanburg County, Orangeburg County, Kershaw County, and Newberry County.