There are many well recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the dangers that certain chemicals pose to their hearing. While there are numerous groups of people at risk, people in industries like textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. Knowing what these hazardous chemicals are and what precautions you should take can help protect your quality of life.
Your hearing could be damaged by certain chemicals
The ears themselves or the nerves of the ears can be toxically impacted by anything that has an “ototoxic” effect. People can come in contact with chemicals that are “ototoxic” at home or in the workplace. They can absorb these chemicals through the skin, breathe, or ingest them. These chemicals can make their way to the sensitive nerves of the ears once they get into the body. Noise exposure will multiply the negative impact, whether permanent or temporary, of ototoxic hearing loss.
Five types of chemicals that can harm your hearing were identified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA:
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air and consist of things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances could put out harmful amounts of these chemicals.
- Solvents – Specific industries such as plastics and insulation use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. If you work in these industries, talk to your workplace safety officer about the degree of exposure you might have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, including antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Speak with your physician and your hearing health specialist about any hazards posed by your medications.
- Nitriles – Nitriles like 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in producing products including automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Because nitriles repel water, they are beneficial, but they can also cause hearing loss.
- Metals and compounds – Metals like lead and mercury can result in hearing loss in addition to the harm they can do to other parts of the body. Individuals may regularly be exposed to these metals if they work in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
What can you do if you’re exposed to ototoxic chemicals?
Taking key precautions is the ideal way to safeguard your hearing from exposure to chemicals. 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 supplied to you, like gloves, masks, or garments, make use of all of it.
When you are at home, read all safety materials on products and adhere to the instructions to the letter. Use appropriate ventilation, including opening windows, staying away from any chemicals, and asking for help if you can’t understand any of the labels. Use extra safety measures 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 having regular screenings if you are using any ototoxic medications or you can’t avoid chemicals. We are experienced in dealing with the various causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to avoid further damage.