There are many well known causes of hearing loss, but not many people recognize the dangers that certain chemicals present to their hearing. At risk groups include automotive workers, plastics, textiles, metal fabrication, and petroleum. Being aware of what these harmful chemicals are and what safeguards you should take can help protect your quality of life.
Certain 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 come in contact with chemicals that are “ototoxic” at home or in the workplace. These chemicals can be breathed in, absorbed, or ingested. These chemicals can make their way to the sensitive nerves of the ears once they enter the body. Noise exposure will increase the negative effects, whether permanent or temporary, of ototoxic hearing loss.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, identified five types of chemicals that can be hazardous to hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, such as antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Speak with your physician and your hearing health specialist about any dangers posed by your medications.
- Nitriles – Nitriles like 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in producing products including automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Because nitriles repel water, they are useful, but they can also result in hearing loss.
- Metals and compounds – Metals such as mercury and lead have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also lead to hearing loss. People may regularly be exposed to these metals if they’re in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
- 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 could put out harmful levels of these chemicals.
- Solvents – Specific industries such as plastics and insulation utilize solvents like styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. Use all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer if you work in these industries.
What should you do if you’re exposed to ototoxic chemicals?
Taking key precautions is the ideal way to safeguard your hearing from exposure to chemicals. If you work in an industry such as automotive, firefighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Whatever safety equipment that is supplied to you, including gloves, masks, or garments, use all of it.
When you are at home, go over all safety materials on products and follow the instructions to the letter. If you can, keep away from any chemicals, open up windows, use proper ventilation, and request help with any instructions you don’t understand. Loud noise and chemicals can have a cumulative impact on your hearing so if you find yourself in this type of scenario, use extra precautions. Try to keep a step ahead of hearing loss by getting regular screenings if you are using any ototoxic medications or you can’t avoid chemicals. We are experienced in dealing with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you put together a plan to avoid further damage.