There are many well recognized causes of hearing loss, but not many people recognize the dangers that certain chemicals present to their hearing. At risk groups 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.
Your hearing could be harmed by certain chemicals
The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic effect on either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears that help with hearing. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. They may absorb these chemicals through the skin, breathe, or ingest them. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can make their way to the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. Noise exposure will multiply the negative effects, 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:
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Because nitriles repel water, they are beneficial, but they can also cause hearing loss.
- Metals and compounds – Metals such as mercury and lead have other adverse effects on the body, but they can also cause hearing loss. Individuals in the fabricated metal or furniture industries may get exposed to these metals often.
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, such as antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can harm your hearing. Consult your physician and your hearing health specialist about any dangers posed by your medications.
- Solvents – Specific industries including plastics and insulation utilize solvents like styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. Wear all of your safety equipment and talk to your workplace safety officer if you work in these industries.
- Asphyxiants – The amount of oxygen in the air is decreased by asphyxiants, that includes things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances could put out harmful amounts of these chemicals.
What should you do if you’re exposed to ototoxic chemicals?
Taking key precautions is the ideal way to protect your hearing from exposure to chemicals. If you work in an industry like automotive, firefighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Make sure you use all safety equipment your job offers, like 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, 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 type of scenario, use extra precautions. Try to keep a step ahead of hearing loss by getting regular hearing exams if you are using any ototoxic medications or you can’t avoid chemicals. We can use our experience to help you come up with a plan to avoid any further damage.