Most workers know that loud noises in the workplace may put them at risk of developing occupational hearing loss. However, many do not realize that, in addition to noise, certain chemicals also have the potential to affect people’s hearing.
Several industries use ototoxic chemicals in the workplace. For people to help keep themselves safe, it may benefit them to understand these substances and how they may affect their health.
What are ototoxic chemicals?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ototoxic chemicals causing occupational hearing loss include various substances. Certain types of solvents, asphyxiants, pharmaceuticals, and metals and compounds present in the workplace cause people to have hearing loss, increased susceptibility to noise or both. Some examples of commonly used chemicals that have the potential for ototoxicity include the following:
- Carbon monoxide
- Hydrogen cyanide
- Antineoplastic agents
- Mercury compounds
Each year, approximately 10 million workers come into contact with potentially harmful solvents in the workplace, while about 22 million experience dangerous noise exposure. Available statistics suggest an unknown number of employees have exposure to ototoxic substances other than solvents each year.
How do ototoxic chemicals affect hearing?
According to the CDC, ototoxic substances may adversely affect the ear’s function. As a result, workers may experience hearing problems, balance issues or both. Some people experience temporary hearing impairments due to ototoxic exposure, while others have permanent effects.
When people suffer occupational hearing loss due to ototoxic chemicals in the workplace, they may have the entitlement to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Therefore, injured workers in such situations often find it helpful to report their injuries and pursue their options for assistance.