Most people are aware of the common causes of hearing loss, but some chemicals can also lead to hearing loss which can be surprising. At risk groups include automotive workers, plastics, textiles, metal fabrication, and petroleum. Knowing what these harmful chemicals are and what precautions you should take can help preserve your quality of life.
Some chemicals could be hazardous to your hearing
The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic effect on either the ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears that help us hear. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals in the workplace or at home. These chemicals can be breathed in, absorbed, or ingested. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can travel to the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. Noise exposure will multiply the negative impact, whether permanent or temporary, of ototoxic hearing loss.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, defined five kinds of chemicals that can be harmful to hearing:
- Solvents – Solvents, like carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in certain industries such as insulation and plastics. If you work in these industries, speak with your workplace safety officer about the level of exposure you might have, and use all of your safety equipment.
- Metals and compounds – Metals like mercury and lead have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also result in hearing loss. Individuals in the fabricated metal or furniture sectors may get exposed to these metals often.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove contain nitriles such as acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be beneficial because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be harmed by medications that have antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. You can learn if any medications you might be taking present any dangers to your hearing by talking with your physician and your hearing specialist.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air and consist of things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful levels of these chemicals are frequently put out by things like stoves, gas engines, and other appliances.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what should you do?
Taking key precautions is the ideal way to protect your hearing from exposure to chemicals. Ask your employer about your level 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 offers, such as protective gloves, garments, and masks.
When you are at home, read all safety materials on products and adhere to 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. Loud noise and chemicals can have a cumulative effect on your hearing so if you find yourself in this type of situation, use extra precautions. Try to keep a step ahead of hearing loss by getting regular screenings if you are using 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 put together a plan to prevent further damage.