There are many commonly known causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the hazards that some chemicals present to their hearing. There is an greater exposure hazard for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Your quality of life can be improved by knowing what these chemicals are and how to protect yourself.
Why Are Select Chemicals Hazardous to Your Hearing?
The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic impact on either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears which assist our hearing. Particular chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. They might absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can travel to the delicate nerves and other portions of the ear. The resulting hearing loss might be temporary or permanent, and the effect is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
Five types of chemicals that can be harmful to your hearing have been identified by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Any concerns about medication that you might be taking should be reviewed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
- Metals and Compounds – Metals like lead and mercury have other adverse effects on the body, but they can also trigger hearing loss. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries could be exposed to these metals regularly.
- Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which lowered the level of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances may put out harmful levels of these chemicals.
- Solvents – Solvents, such as carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in select industries like insulation and plastics. If you work in these industries, speak with your workplace safety officer about how much exposure you may have, and use all of your safety equipment.
- Nitriles – Things like super glue, latex gloves, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles such as acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Though your hearing can be damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the benefit of repelling water.
What Can You do if You’re subjected to Ototoxic Chemicals?
Taking precautions is the key to protecting your hearing. If you work in a sector including plastics, automotive, fire-fighting, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Be certain you utilize every safety material your job provides, like protective gloves, garments, and masks.
Be sure you follow all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you use them. Use correct ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for help if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Chemicals and noise can have a cumulative effect on your hearing, so if you are around both simultaneously, take added precautions. Try to nip any potential problem in the bud by having a routine hearing exam if you are on medications or if you can’t steer clear of chemicals. Hearing specialists have experience with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to avoid further damage.