There are lots of commonly known causes of hearing loss, but not many people recognize the dangers that some chemicals pose to their hearing. While there are several groups of people at risk, people in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. You can safeguard your quality of life by knowing what these chemicals are and what precautions to take.
Your hearing could be harmed by some chemicals
The ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears can be toxically affected by anything that has an “ototoxic” effect. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. These chemicals can be inhaled, absorbed, or ingested. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can travel to the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The resulting hearing loss may be temporary or permanent, and the impact is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, identified five types of chemicals that can be hazardous to hearing:
- Nitriles – Nitriles such as 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in making products including automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Because nitriles repel water, they are useful, but they can also cause hearing loss.
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be harmed by medications that contain antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. Talk to your physician and your hearing health specialist about any hazards posed by your medications.
- Solvents – Solvents, such as carbon disulfide and styrene, are utilized in certain industries such as insulation and plastics. Use all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer if you work in these sectors.
- Metals and compounds – Metals including lead and mercury can result in hearing loss in addition to the harm they can do to other parts of the body. Individuals in the fabricated metal or furniture industries might get exposed to these metals often.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants lower the quantity of oxygen in the air and consist of things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances may put out harmful amounts of these chemicals.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what should you do?
Taking key precautions is the best way to safeguard your hearing from exposure to chemicals. If you work in an industry like automotive, firefighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. You need to utilize all safety equipment your job supplies, such as protective gloves, garments, and masks.
When you are at home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions to the letter. Use appropriate ventilation, including opening windows, keeping away from any chemicals, and asking for help if you are unable to 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, use extra precautions. If you can’t avoid chemicals or are on medications, be certain you have regular hearing exams so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. We can use our experience to help you come up with a plan to prevent any further damage.