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Ototoxicity – Hearing loss in the workplace

| Aug 5, 2019 | Workers' Compensation

Many people automatically equate a workers’ compensation claim with a single accident that occurred at work such as an industrial crush injury or being struck by falling debris. Unfortunately, while these accidents can be serious, they are only the tip of the workplace injury iceberg.

Workers don’t often worry about the harm that can be done to their five senses. From nerve damage to vision impairment, certain work environments can cause life-altering complications. OSHA has released many instructional warnings regarding hearing loss in the workplace.

What are ototoxicants?

While loud noise in the workplace can lead to hearing loss, there are also chemicals that can negatively affect how the ear functions. These chemicals are known as ototoxicants and can include:

  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Solvents
  • Asphyxiants
  • Nitriles
  • Metals and compounds

What can be done to control exposure?

The first step is education. All employers must provide access to current Safety Data Sheets (SDS) where employees can learn more about the potential hazards of the chemicals they are handling. With the proper information and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), workers can take steps to remain safe in the workplace.

Many ototoxic substances can be absorbed through the skin. Workers are cautioned to wear gloves, arm sleeves, aprons or other PPE to protect themselves against harmful exposure.

Ototoxicants and environmental noise can lead to:

  • Compressed loudness or sound distortion
  • Inability to differentiate between two sounds
  • Inability to detect time gaps between sounds
  • Inability to localize sound

Additionally, workers might find it increasingly difficult to differentiate human speech from background noise due to problems in frequency resolution.

A workplace injury or harmful condition can leave an entire family facing financial peril. It is important to discuss your unique situation with a skilled workers’ compensation attorney for legal guidance regarding benefits and additional monetary recovery.

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