There are lots of commonly known 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, those in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. Knowing what these harmful chemicals are and what safeguards you should take can help preserve your quality of life.
Your hearing could be damaged by certain chemicals
The word “ototoxic” means that something is toxic to either the ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears that help with hearing. People can be exposed to chemicals that are “ototoxic” 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, recognized five types of chemicals that can be harmful to hearing:
- Asphyxiants – The amount of oxygen in the air is decreased by asphyxiants, including things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances could put out harmful levels of these chemicals.
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be damaged by medications that have antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. You can determine if any medications you might be using present any hazards to your hearing by talking to your physician and your hearing specialist.
- Nitriles – Nitriles such as 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in producing products including automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be useful because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
- Solvents – Specific industries such as plastics and insulation utilize solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. Use all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer if you work in these sectors.
- Metals and compounds – Metals like lead and mercury can result in hearing loss on top of the harm they can do to other parts of the body. Individuals could frequently be exposed to these metals if they’re in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what can you do?
The ideal way to safeguard 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. Any safety equipment that is available to you, like gloves, masks, or garments, use all of it.
Read and follow all of the safety instructions listed on product labels. Use appropriate ventilation, including opening windows, staying away from any chemicals, and asking for help if you are unable to decipher 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. Try to keep a step ahead of hearing loss by having regular screenings if you are using any ototoxic medications or you can’t stay away from chemicals. We are experienced in addressing the various causes of hearing loss and can help you formulate a plan to avoid further damage.