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CAN CHEMICAL EXPOSURE IN THE WORKPLACE CAUSE HEARING LOSS?

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Over the years, numerous patients have come into my office and asked if chemicals at their workplace can cause hearing loss.   There are studies that suggest common industrial chemicals can cause hearing loss themselves or exacerbate the effects of noise.

The chemicals may damage the cochlea in the inner ear or the auditory neurological pathways leading to hearing loss, tinnitus, and vertigo.  Hearing loss is more likely if exposed to a combination of chemicals or a combination of chemicals and noise.  According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety, ototoxic chemicals can cause minor to severe hearing loss.  Once these toxins enter the blood vessels, it reaches the ears, damages the auditory nerve and thereby cause hearing loss.  Even chemical combinations with noise exposure at safe levels can cause hearing loss.

Activities where noise and ototoxic chemicals often combine can include Painting, printing, construction, manufacture of metal, fiberglass, petroleum, and leather products, radiator repair, furniture building, firefighting, aircraft maintenance, pesticide spraying, boat building, and weapons firing.  

Thorough studies are on occupational ototoxins are being promoted to improve tools, tests, and regulations used in occupational hearing conservation programs.   Hearing loss can lead to negative biological, social, psychological, and cognitive effects.   This not only impacts the affected individual but on the people communicating with them as well if left untreated.   If there are ever any concerns regarding your hearing in the workplace, annual audiograms are highly recommended.

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