When you think of hearing loss causes, you probably think of old age or being exposed to loud noises for a prolonged length of time. These are causes of hearing loss, but they aren’t the only ones. There’s a surprising cause of hearing loss that researchers uncovered, and it involves exposure to chemicals.
Ototoxicants are chemicals that when exposed to can lead to hearing loss. These chemicals can be found in pesticides, solvents, and even some medications. Furthermore, the risk of hearing loss resulting from exposure to ototoxicants increases if workers are exposed to loud noise.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a report that points to the dangers of ototoxicants. They divided ototoxicants into five categories — pharmaceuticals, solvents, asphyxiants, nitriles, and metals and compounds. Industries with high exposure to ototoxicants include agriculture, construction, mining, and utilities. Metal workers, painters, textile and apparel workers, and ship and boat builders were part of subgroups also highly exposed to ototoxicants.
The type of hearing loss as a result of exposure to chemicals is known as speech discrimination dysfunction and it’s dangerous because it causes individuals to be unable to distinguish co-workers’ voices or warning signs from ambient sounds.
Furthermore, standard hearing tests do not distinguish between noise- and ototoxicant-induced hearing loss.
OSHA recommends that employers explore ototoxicant exposure and its effects on its employees hearing. Additionally, employers should work to reduce employee’s exposure to ototoxicants as a means to prevent this type of hearing loss.
Always ensure you’re not only protecting your hearing while working, but you’re reducing your risk of chemical exposure by wearing the appropriate protective wear such as suits, gloves, or earplugs.
Hearing loss is irreversible, so once it’s gone, you can’t get it back. Therefore, prevention is your best course of action.