Hearing loss and ototoxic substances, chemicals damage hearing

Outsource Safety Ltd BlogSafety newsHearing loss and ototoxic substances, chemicals damage hearing
July 5, 2018 Posted by Roger Hart

I have to say this is an area which I can’t help but find fascinating: hearing loss and ototoxic substances.  Ototoxic substances are those which can lead to hearing loss even without noise exposure, combine them with the noise exposure which we see in industry and construction and you have a combination which might explain why some people experience hearing loss even at levels which we would otherwise assume to be safe.

Being safety consultants which can monitor noise, assess hearing loss and carry out air monitoring for any of the substances detailed below means we’re here and ready to assist you on this risk, if you need help please do get in touch or request us to call you back

Research: Hearing loss and ototoxic substances

Amazingly this isn’t even something new, research on this goes as far back as the 1970’s (Makishima et al., 1977) and the first ototoxic substance was actually discovered in 1944 when treating people for TB.  The next question you have is what kind of substances should you be concerned about?  Have a look below for some examples and also some jobs which may well put workers at a higher risk of hearing loss but please bear in mind that there are estimated to be more than 750 separate groups of ototoxic substances and most MSDS (COSHH) sheet won’t tell you if a substance falls into these groups as only a few of these groups have been studied in depth.

Ototoxic substances;

  • toluene
  • styrene
  • xylene
  • ethanol
  • ethyl benzene
  • arsenic
  • manganese
  • lead
  • trichloroethylene
  • mercury
  • carbon monoxide
  • carbon disulphide
  • hydrogen cyanide
  • tin
  • organophosphates
  • paraquat
  • germanium
  • cyanides

Plus some medicines have been defined as ototoxic including some anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic, anti-malarial and anti rheumatic drugs, loop diuretics and antibiotics.

Occupations and job types which may carry a higher risk

  • aircraft maintenance
  • printing
  • painting
  • dry cleaning
  • boat building
  • construction work
  • metal manufacture
  • leather manufacture
  • petroleum products manufacture
  • defence work (weapons firing)
  • furniture making
  • vehicle refuelling
  • firefighting
  • agriculture

So, what do you need to do next?  Well, you won’t find too much information on the MSDS sheets you have as very few manufacturers references substances which are ototoxic.  But if you do have concerns reference the chemicals above and feel free to call and ask for advice if you’re a client on a support contract.  If you’re not on a support contract call us anyway and we’ll be happy to talk about how we support similar businesses 01453 800100