There are lots of well known causes of hearing loss, but not many people recognize the dangers that certain chemicals present to their hearing. Groups that are at risk include automotive workers, plastics, textiles, metal fabrication, and petroleum. You can protect your quality of life by being aware of what these chemicals are and what precautions to take.
Certain 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 in the ears that help us hear. People can come in contact with chemicals that are “ototoxic” in the workplace or at home. They can absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can travel to the fragile nerves and other parts of the ear. Noise exposure will increase the negative impact, whether permanent or temporary, of ototoxic hearing loss.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, defined five types of chemicals that can be hazardous to hearing:
- Metals and compounds – Metals including lead and mercury can lead to hearing loss on top of the harm they can do to other parts of the body. Individuals may regularly be exposed to these metals if they’re in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
- 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.
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be damaged by medications that contain antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. You can determine if any medications you might be using present any dangers to your hearing by talking with your physician and your hearing specialist.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants lower the quantity of oxygen in the air and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful amounts of these chemicals are often put out by things like stoves, gas engines, and other appliances.
- Nitriles – Nitriles such as 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in producing products such as automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Because nitriles repel water, they are beneficial, but they can also result in hearing loss.
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. Ask your employer about your level 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, make use of all of it.
When you are at home, go over all safety materials on products and follow the instructions to the letter. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, keeping 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 impact on your hearing so if you find yourself in this kind 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 can use our experience to help you develop a plan to prevent any further damage.