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Hearing Loss in the Workplace – Ototoxicity

Colburn Law

It’s no secret that workers are at risk of injury and illness on the job. However, workplace injuries can extend far beyond carpal tunnel syndrome or back pain. In some cases, employees suffer hearing loss due to repeated exposure to substances known as ototoxicants

Workers in many industries are likely to come into contact with these toxic chemicals, including manufacturing, construction, mining, and utilities. If you developed hearing loss on the job, you may be eligible for a Washington workers’ compensation claim.

What Are Ototoxicants?

Ototoxicants are chemicals that experts have linked to a loss of hearing. These substances negatively impact ear function and may have detrimental effects on workers who handle them on a regular basis. They can be inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin.

Common ototoxic chemicals include the following:

  • Solvents, such as toluene and carbon disulfide
  • Asphyxiants, such as carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke
  • Nitriles, which are often found in many manufacturing compounds
  • Metals and compounds, such as lead, mercury compounds, and germanium dioxide
  • Pharmaceutical drugs like loop diuretics, certain analgesics, and aminoglycosidic antibiotics

How Ototoxic Chemicals Can Contribute to Hearing Loss

Harmful exposure to ototoxicants can lead to permanent and temporary complications. These chemicals can impact the central nervous system and have a significant impact on our auditory processing functions. 

As a result, you can experience the following symptoms. 

  • Sound distortion
  • An inability to determine where a sound is coming from
  • An inability to differentiate between two sounds
  • An inability to detect time changes between sounds
  • An inability to hear voices from background noise

There are several ways to protect employees from ototoxicity. Workplaces must take careful steps to identify potentially harmful substances, supply the right personal protective equipment, and control exposure to the chemical. 

Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim for Ototoxicity

Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim for Ototoxicity

While following safety best practices can limit the risk of ototoxic exposure, hearing loss may still occur. If you were exposed to ototoxic chemicals while at work, you could suffer significant emotional, physical, and financial hardship.

In Washington, employees who are injured on the job have the right to pursue workers’ compensation claims. Employers must carry this coverage if they have at least one full- or part-time worker.

Through this type of claim, you could recover benefits for medical care and replacement for any wages that you lose while you are away from work. If the ototoxicity results in permanent hearing loss, you may be eligible for permanent disability benefits. 

How to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Washington

To file a workers’ compensation claim, you will need to seek medical care as soon as possible and notify your doctor or physician that your ototoxicity occurred at work. Then, you will need to report your injury to your employer in writing as soon as possible. 

Your employer will then submit your claim to the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). Then, L&I will review your claim and help you understand whether you are eligible for benefits. If the agency denies your case, you could file an appeal.

The workers’ compensation process can be challenging, especially when it comes to ototoxicity cases. In these situations, you need an advocate on your side who can represent your claim and craft a compelling case for your right to benefits. 

As soon as possible following your diagnosis, contact a Washington workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss your case and plan your next steps.