Many people are informed about the known causes of hearing loss but don’t comprehend the risks that everyday chemicals pose to their hearing. There is an greater exposure hazard for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Realizing what these hazardous chemicals are and what precautions you should take can help maintain your quality of life.
Why Are Some Chemicals Harmful to Your Hearing?
The term “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic impact on either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears which help us hear. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. They could absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can affect the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The resultant hearing loss might be temporary or long-term, and the impact is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, discovered five types of chemicals which can be hazardous to your hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs including diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics can cause damage to your hearing. Any worries about medication that you might be taking should be reviewed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
- Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be triggered by metals like mercury and lead which also have other harmful health effects. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries could get exposed to these metals frequently.
- Solvents – Solvents, like styrene and carbon disulfide, are used in certain industries like plastics and insulation. Make sure that if you work in one of these industries, you wear all of your safety equipment and consult your workplace safety officer about how much you are exposed.
- 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.
- Asphyxiants – Things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide contain asphyxiants which decreased the level of oxygen in the air. Dangerous levels of these chemicals can be produced by gas tools, vehicles, stoves and other appliances.
If You Are Exposed to These Ototoxic Chemicals, What Can You do?
The solution to safeguarding your hearing from exposure to chemicals is to take precautions. Consult your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the construction, plastics, pesticide spraying, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. Be certain you utilize every safety material your job supplies, such as protective garment, gloves, and masks.
When you’re at home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions to the letter. Use correct ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for assistance if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Noise and chemicals 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 exam if you are on medications or if you can’t avoid chemicals. Hearing specialists are experienced in dealing with the various causes of hearing loss and can help you put together a plan to stop further damage.