Most people are aware of the common causes of hearing loss, but some chemicals can also cause hearing loss which can come as a surprise. While there are several groups of people at risk, individuals in industries like textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. Knowing what these hazardous chemicals are and what safeguards you should take can help protect your quality of life.
Some chemicals could be harmful to your hearing
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. People can be exposed to chemicals that are “ototoxic” at home or in the workplace. These chemicals can be breathed in, absorbed, or ingested. These chemicals can travel to the delicate nerves of the ears once they enter the body. The resulting hearing loss could be temporary or long-term, and the effect is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, identified five kinds of chemicals that can be hazardous to hearing:
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants lower the amount 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 levels of these chemicals.
- Nitriles – Nitriles such as 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are utilized in producing products such as automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Because nitriles repel water, they are useful, but they can also contribute to hearing loss.
- Metals and compounds – Metals like lead and mercury can cause hearing loss in addition to the harm they can do to other parts of the body. People may regularly be exposed to these metals if they work in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
- Solvents – Solvents, such as carbon disulfide and styrene, are employed in certain industries like insulation and plastics. If you work in these fields, consult your workplace safety officer about the degree of exposure you may have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be damaged by medications that contain antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. Speak with your physician and your hearing health specialist about any dangers posed by your medications.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what can 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, consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Any safety equipment that is supplied to you, including gloves, masks, or garments, make use of all of it.
Read and adhere to all of the safety instructions listed on product labels. If you can, stay away from any chemicals, open up windows, use proper ventilation, and ask for help with any instructions you don’t understand. Use extra safety measures if you are around noise at the same time as chemicals, as the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. If you can’t avoid chemicals or are on medications, make sure you have regular hearing tests so you can attempt to nip any problems in the bud. We are experienced in addressing the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you put together a plan to prevent further damage.