There are lots of well known causes of hearing loss, but few people recognize the dangers that certain chemicals pose to their hearing. At risk groups include automotive workers, plastics, textiles, metal fabrication, and petroleum. You can protect your quality of life by knowing what these chemicals are and what precautions to take.
Your hearing could be harmed by some chemicals
The word “ototoxic” means that something is toxic to either the ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears that help us hear. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals in the workplace or at home. These chemicals can be inhaled, absorbed, or ingested. These chemicals can make their way to the delicate nerves of the ears once they enter the body. Noise exposure will increase the negative impact, whether permanent or temporary, of ototoxic hearing loss.
Five kinds of chemicals that can harm your hearing were defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA:
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove have nitriles such as acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Because nitriles repel water, they are useful, but they can also contribute to hearing loss.
- Metals and compounds – Metals such as mercury and lead have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also trigger hearing loss. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries might get exposed to these metals often.
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, such as antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Speak with your physician and your hearing health specialist about any hazards posed by your medications.
- Solvents – Certain industries including plastics and insulation utilize solvents like styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. Wear all of your safety equipment and consult your workplace safety officer if you work in these industries.
- Asphyxiants – The level of oxygen in the air is reduced by asphyxiants, that includes things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful levels of these chemicals are often put out by things like stoves, gas engines, and other appliances.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what should you do?
The best way to protect your hearing from chemical exposure is to take key precautions. If you work in an industry such as automotive, firefighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. You need to use all safety equipment your job provides, like protective gloves, garments, and masks.
Read and follow all of the safety instructions listed on product labels. 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 kind of situation, take extra precautions. Try to keep a step ahead of hearing loss by having regular screenings if you are taking 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 come up with a plan to prevent further damage.