Individuals with hearing loss in San Francisco can usually blame excess noise or the aging process for their condition. While these are the most common factors associated with impaired hearing, they aren’t the only ones. Few people realize the dangers that certain chemicals can pose to their hearing.
What are Ototoxicants?
Chemicals that interfere with the ears’ ability to work are known as ototoxicants. OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) recently published a Safety and Health Information Bulletin that discusses the harm certain chemicals can cause to your hearing. These ototoxicants are commonly found in solvents, pharmaceuticals and pesticides.
Hazardous chemicals are often found on construction sites, manufacturing facilities and farms – but may even appear in your home. When these ototoxicants travel through the bloodstream, they can damage the hair cells of the inner ear and the neural pathways. Your risk of a hearing impairment is even greater when loud noise is part of the workplace.
OSHA has broken down these chemicals into the following categories:
The industries where these ototoxicants are most commonly found are construction, mining, textile and agricultural. Factory workers who deal with metal, textile and paint, and people who build ships and boats, are particularly vulnerable. They may experience speech dysfuntion, a type of
It’s unclear how extensive the problem is. According to OSHA, hearing tests aren’t able to distinguish between the different causes of hearing loss – whether noise or chemicals are to blame – and many workplaces have both.
Preventing Hearing Loss from Ototoxicants
To protect your ears from dangerous chemicals, check with OSHA for Material Safety Data Sheets to determine whether your workplace has ototoxicants. If your employer doesn’t offer health and safety training classes, ask if they can provide them; these are invaluable in learning about tips and strategies to protect your hearing.
Look for less-toxic alternatives to potentially harmful chemicals. If there aren’t any efficient substitutes, make sure to institute proper safety procedures, such as enclosure and isolation, to reduce exposure to noise and ototoxicants. Provide clothing designed to reduce the chances of chemicals being absorbed into the skin.
Want more information on potentially harmful chemicals and ways to stay safe? Contact an audiologist in San Rafael.