by Caroline Miller, CIH, CSP
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued a Safety and Health Information Bulletin on March 8, 2018 regarding hearing loss caused by noise exposure in environments with exposures to certain chemical. These chemicals, called ototoxicants, include pharmaceuticals, solvents, asphyxiants, nitriles, and metals compounds. Ototoxicants effect the central nervous system and can cause sound alteration, frequency and sequential resolution, and the failure to specify sound.
Chemically-induced hearing loss is not obviously recognized, as standard hearing loss analysis methods do not differentiate the cause. In addition, due to interactive effects, hearing loss caused by ototoxicants may be well below the OSHA permissible exposure level (PEL) for noise exposure.
Recommended Action Items:
- Assess employee noise exposure in accordance with the OSHA noise standard found in 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.95.
- Review safety data sheets (SDSs) for chemicals with central nervous system specific target organ toxicity (STOT) that are neurotoxic or nephrotoxic.
- Train employees and provide information on ototoxicants as required by OSHA’s hazard communication regulation found in 29 CFR 1910.1200.
- Control exposures to ototoxicants by elimination, implementing engineering controls and administrative controls, and requiring personal protective equipment.
- OSHA Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB) 03-08-2018: Preventing Hearing Loss Caused by Chemical (Ototoxicity) and Noise Exposure
- NIOSH DHHS Publication No. 2018-124: Preventing Hearing Loss Caused by Chemical (Ototoxicity) and Noise Exposure
Chemically-induced hearing loss