Many people are aware of the common causes of hearing loss but don’t comprehend the hazards that everyday chemicals present to their hearing. While there are a number of groups of people in danger, those in industries like textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. Realizing what these dangerous chemicals are and what precautions you should take can help maintain your quality of life.
Some Chemicals Are Harmful to Your Hearing. Why?
The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic effect on either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears which assist our hearing. At work or at home, individuals can come in contact with ototoxic chemicals. They may absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. These chemicals, once they’re absorbed into the body, will travel into the ear, affecting the delicate nerves. The resulting hearing loss might be temporary or permanent, and the effect is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, defined five kinds of chemicals which can be detrimental to your hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by drugs like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics. Any worries about medication that you may be taking should be talked over with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
- Solvents – Specific industries such as insulation and plastics use solvents such as carbon disulfide and styrene in manufacturing. Be sure that if you work in one of these industries, you wear all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer about your level of exposure.
- Metals and Compounds – Metals including mercury and lead have other adverse effects on the body, but they can also cause hearing loss. These metals are typically found in the furniture and metal fabrication industries.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants decrease 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 produce dangerous levels of these chemicals.
- Nitriles – Nitriles like 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used to make products such as automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be advantageous because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
If You Are Subjected to These Ototoxic Chemicals, What Can You do?
The key to protecting your hearing from chemical exposure is to take precautions. Consult your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the pesticide spraying, construction, plastics, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. If your workplace supplies safety equipment like protective masks, gloves, or garments, use them.
When you’re at home, read all safety labels on products and follow the instructions 100 percent. When you are using any chemicals, if you don’t understand the label, ask for help, and use correct ventilation. Chemicals and noise can have a cumulative impact on your hearing, so if you are around both simultaneously, take additional precautions. Try to get ahead of any potential problems by having a regular hearing test if you are on medications or if you can’t avoid chemicals. Hearing specialists have experience with the various causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to avoid further damage.