There are lots of commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people recognize the hazards that certain chemicals present to their hearing. While there are a number of groups of people in danger, those in industries like textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Your quality of life can be enhanced by recognizing what these chemicals are and how to protect yourself.
Why Are Select Chemicals Hazardous to Your Hearing?
Something that has a toxic impact on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. At work or at home, people can be exposed to ototoxic chemicals. These chemicals can be absorbed by ingestion, inhalation, or through the skin. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can travel to the delicate nerves and other portions 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.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, discovered five types of chemicals which can be hazardous to your hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by drugs like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Consult your primary doctor and your hearing health specialist about any hazards presented by your medications.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants lower the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances could put out unsafe levels of these chemicals.
- Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be caused by metals like mercury and lead which also have other harmful health effects. These metals are typically found in the metal fabrication and furniture industries.
- Solvents – Specific industries including insulation and plastics use solvents such as carbon disulfide and styrene in manufacturing. Make sure that if you work in one of these industries, you wear all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer about how much you are exposed.
- Nitriles – Nitriles including 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used to make products such as automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be advantageous because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
What Can You do if You’re Exposed to Ototoxic Chemicals?
The key to protecting your hearing from chemical exposure is to take precautions. Ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals if you work in the construction, plastics, pesticide spraying, automotive, or fire-fighting industries. Make sure you utilize every safety material your job offers, such as protective garment, gloves, and masks.
Be sure you adhere to all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you use them. Use correct ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for assistance if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Chemicals and noise can have a cumulative impact on your hearing, so if you are around both at the same time, take additional precautions. Try to nip any potential problem in the bud by having a regular hearing test if you are on medications or if you can’t steer clear of chemicals. Hearing specialists have experience with the various causes of hearing loss and can help you figure out a plan to stop further damage.