There are lots of commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people recognize the dangers that certain chemicals present to their hearing. While there are numerous groups of people at risk, individuals in industries like textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Knowing what these hazardous chemicals are and what precautions you should take can help protect your quality of life.
Your hearing could be harmed by some chemicals
The word “ototoxic” means that something is toxic to either the ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears that help us hear. People can come in contact with chemicals that are “ototoxic” at home or in the workplace. They could absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can travel to the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The resulting hearing loss could be temporary or long-term, and the effect is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
Five types of chemicals that can damage your hearing were defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA:
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be harmed by medications that have antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. You can determine if any medications you might be taking present any hazards to your hearing by talking with your physician and your hearing specialist.
- Solvents – Solvents, like carbon disulfide and styrene, are utilized in some industries like insulation and plastics. Wear all of your safety equipment and talk to your workplace safety officer if you work in these industries.
- Metals and compounds – Metals including lead and mercury can cause hearing loss on top of the harm they can do to other parts of the body. People could frequently be exposed to these metals if they’re in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
- Asphyxiants – The amount of oxygen in the air is decreased by asphyxiants, including things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances may put out harmful amounts of these chemicals.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be beneficial because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
What can you do if you’re exposed to ototoxic chemicals?
The best way to protect your hearing from chemical exposure is to take key precautions. Consult your employer about your level of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the automotive, pesticide spraying, plastics, firefighting, or construction industries. Whatever safety equipment that is available to you, like gloves, masks, or garments, use all of it.
When you are at home, read all safety materials on products and follow the instructions to the letter. Use appropriate ventilation, including opening windows, keeping away from any chemicals, and asking for help if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Use extra safety measures if you are around noise at the same time as chemicals, as the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. Try to stay a step ahead of hearing loss by getting regular hearing exams if you are using any ototoxic medications or you can’t stay away from chemicals. We can use our experience to help you come up with a plan to avoid any further damage.