There are many well recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the dangers that some chemicals pose to their hearing. While there are numerous groups of people at risk, people in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. You can protect your quality of life by being aware of what these chemicals are and what precautions to take.
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 us hear. People can be exposed to chemicals that are “ototoxic” at home or in the workplace. These chemicals can be breathed in, absorbed, or ingested. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can make their way to the fragile nerves and other parts of the ear. Noise exposure will increase the negative effects, whether permanent or temporary, of ototoxic hearing loss.
Five kinds of chemicals that can damage your hearing were recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA:
- Nitriles – Nitriles such as 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are utilized in making products including automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Because nitriles repel water, they are useful, but they can also contribute to hearing loss.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants decrease the quantity of oxygen in the air and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful amounts of these chemicals are often produced by things like stoves, gas engines, and other appliances.
- Metals and compounds – Metals such as mercury and lead have other negative effects on the body, but they can also trigger hearing loss. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries might get exposed to these metals often.
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, such as antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can harm your hearing. Speak with your physician and your hearing health specialist about any dangers posed by your medications.
- Solvents – Solvents, such as carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in certain industries such as insulation and plastics. Use all of your safety equipment and consult your workplace safety officer if you work in these industries.
What should 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. Any safety equipment that is available to you, like gloves, masks, or garments, make use of all of it.
When you are at home, go over all safety materials on products and follow the instructions to the letter. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, staying away from any chemicals, and asking for help if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Take extra precautions if you’re around noise at the same time as chemicals, as the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. Try to keep 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 make a plan to prevent any further damage.