Most people recognize the common causes of hearing loss, but certain chemicals can also cause hearing loss which can come as a surprise. Groups that are at risk include automotive workers, plastics, textiles, metal fabrication, and petroleum. You can protect your quality of life by knowing what these chemicals are and what precautions to take.
Some chemicals could be hazardous to your hearing
The word “ototoxic” means that something is toxic to either the ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears that help us hear. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals in the workplace or at home. These chemicals can be breathed in, absorbed, or ingested. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can travel to the fragile nerves and other parts of the ear. Noise exposure will increase the negative effects, whether permanent or temporary, of ototoxic hearing loss.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, recognized five types of chemicals that can be harmful to hearing:
- Nitriles – Nitriles like 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in producing products including automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be useful because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
- Metals and compounds – Metals including lead and mercury can result in hearing loss in addition to the damage they can do to other parts of the body. Individuals could regularly be exposed to these metals if they work in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, such as antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can damage hearing. You can learn if any medications you might be taking pose any hazards to your hearing by consulting your physician and your hearing specialist.
- Solvents – Certain industries including plastics and insulation use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. If you work in these industries, consult your workplace safety officer about the degree of exposure you might have, and use all of your safety equipment.
- Asphyxiants – The level of oxygen in the air is reduced by asphyxiants, including things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful levels of these chemicals are frequently put out by things like stoves, gas engines, and other appliances.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what can you do?
Taking key precautions is the best way to safeguard your hearing from exposure to chemicals. Consult your employer about your level of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the automotive, pesticide spraying, plastics, firefighting, or construction industries. You need to utilize every safety material your job offers, such as protective gloves, garments, and masks.
When you are at home, go over all safety materials on products and adhere to the instructions to the letter. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, staying away from any chemicals, and asking for help if you are unable to understand any of the labels. Take extra precautions if you are around noise at the same time as chemicals, as the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. Try to stay a step ahead of hearing loss by getting regular hearing exams if you are using any ototoxic medications or you can’t stay away from chemicals. We are experienced in addressing the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to avoid further damage.