Workers in California face an endless list of safety risks, most of which they know from the safety training they receive. However, some lesser-known dangers often do not receive the necessary attention. Did you know that some of the chemicals to which your job exposes you could cause hearing loss?
You and millions of other workers nationwide work in excessively noisy conditions, which is a known cause of permanent hearing loss if not controlled. Researchers say certain chemicals can cause hearing loss and balance problems even when loud noises are not a problem. The collective name for these chemicals is ototoxicants, and they include certain solvents, pesticides and other pharmaceuticals.
Ototoxicant-induced hearing loss a growing concern
Occupational safety authorities expressed concern that ototoxicant-induced hearing loss may often go unrecognized. The reason is the fact that, although hearing is measured with various powerful tools that include audiometric tests, the cause of hearing loss may remain unknown. The testing equipment does not identify the cause. The risk of hearing loss increases if you work with ototoxic chemicals in an excessively noisy environment.
How do ototoxicants affect hearing?
Ototoxicants can enter your system in various ways, including skin absorption, ingestion and inhalation. The severity of the hearing loss depends on the frequency of exposure, duration and intensity. Other factors that could elevate the risk include your age and the presence of noise in your workplace.
Ototoxic chemicals damage important parts of your auditory system, from nerves and nuclei to the pathways from your inner ear to the brain and even the brain itself. After such damage, you might only hear very loud sounds, and the nerve damage can also affect the clarity of the sounds that you can hear. You might find that you cannot distinguish different sounds, such as someone’s voice and background noise.
Speech discrimination dysfunction
This dysfunction causes confusion when you can no longer hear sounds separately, putting your safety on the line.
The following hearing problems could increase your injury risks:
- Frequency resolution: Two different sounds that have similar frequencies will sound the same.
- Compressed loudness: Sound will be so distorted that you are unable to identify them.
- Spatial resolution: This dysfunction will prevent you from localizing sound or identifying the origin of the sound.
- Temporal resolution: You will no longer be able to hear time gaps between sounds, but a continuous noise instead.
These dysfunctions will undoubtedly increase your risk of suffering work-related injuries. Your inability to hear co-workers’ voices will prevent you from responding to instructions, orders, and questions of co-workers and supervisors. Furthermore, your inability to respond to warning signals and environmental sounds might compromise your safety.
Ototoxic chemical exposure occurs in various industries. If you work in agriculture, construction, mining, utilities, manufacturing or firefighting, you may want to learn more about the chemicals in your workplace. Hearing loss is a gradual process, and although the California workers’ compensation covers it, proving that your job caused your hearing loss might be a complicated process. This is where the skills of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney come in. Having legal counsel to navigate the claims process will increase your chances of receiving the compensation you deserve.