There are lots of commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the dangers that some chemicals present to their hearing. Groups that are at risk include automotive workers, plastics, textiles, metal fabrication, and petroleum. Knowing what these harmful chemicals are and what safeguards you should take can help preserve your quality of life.
Certain chemicals could be hazardous to your hearing
The word “ototoxic” means that something is toxic to either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears that help with hearing. People can come in contact with chemicals that are “ototoxic” in the workplace or at home. These chemicals can be breathed in, absorbed, or ingested. These chemicals can make their way to the sensitive nerves of the ears once they enter the body. The resulting hearing loss might be temporary or long-term, and the impact is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, defined five kinds of chemicals that can be hazardous to hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, including antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Talk to your physician and your hearing health specialist about any dangers posed by your medications.
- Solvents – Certain industries including plastics and insulation use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. If you work in these fields, talk to your workplace safety officer about the degree of exposure you might have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
- Asphyxiants – The level of oxygen in the air is reduced by asphyxiants, that includes things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances could put out harmful levels of these chemicals.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove contain nitriles such as acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Because nitriles repel water, they are useful, but they can also result in hearing loss.
- Metals and compounds – Metals such as mercury and lead have other negative effects on the body, but they can also result in hearing loss. Individuals could frequently be exposed to these metals if they work in the furniture or metal fabrication 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 degree of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the automotive, pesticide spraying, plastics, firefighting, or construction industries. Make sure you use every safety material your job provides, such as protective gloves, garments, and masks.
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 can’t understand 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. If you can’t avoid chemicals or are on medications, make sure you have regular hearing tests so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. We can use our experience to help you make a plan to prevent any further damage.