There are many well recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people recognize the dangers that some chemicals present to their hearing. Groups that are at risk include automotive workers, plastics, textiles, metal fabrication, and petroleum. Being aware of what these harmful chemicals are and what precautions you should take can help preserve 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 in the ears that help with hearing. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. These chemicals can be inhaled, absorbed, or ingested. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can travel to the fragile nerves and other parts of the ear. The resulting hearing loss might be temporary or long-term, and the impact 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:
- Metals and compounds – Metals such as mercury and lead have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also trigger hearing loss. People may frequently be exposed to these metals if they’re in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be harmed by medications that have antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. Speak with your physician and your hearing health specialist about any hazards posed by your medications.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants lower the amount of oxygen in the air and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances may put out harmful levels of these chemicals.
- Solvents – Certain industries such as plastics and insulation use solvents like styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. Use all of your safety equipment and consult your workplace safety officer if you work in these sectors.
- 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 should you do if you’re exposed to ototoxic chemicals?
The best way to safeguard your hearing from chemical exposure is to take key precautions. If you work in an industry such as automotive, firefighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Any safety equipment that is provided to you, including gloves, masks, or garments, use all of it.
Read and adhere to all of the safety instructions listed on product labels. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, keeping away from any chemicals, and asking for help if you are unable to decipher any of the labels. Loud noise and chemicals can have a cumulative effect on your hearing so if you find yourself in this type of scenario, use extra precautions. Try to stay a step ahead of hearing loss by having regular hearing exams if you are taking any ototoxic medications or you can’t stay away from chemicals. We are experienced in dealing with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to prevent further damage.