Most people recognize the common causes of hearing loss, but certain chemicals can also lead to hearing loss which can come as a surprise. While there are numerous groups of people at risk, individuals in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. You can protect your quality of life by being aware of what these chemicals are and what precautions to take.
Your hearing could be damaged by some chemicals
The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic effect on 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 at home and in the workplace. They could absorb these chemicals through the skin, breathe, or ingest them. These chemicals can make their way to the sensitive nerves of the ears once they enter the body. Noise exposure will multiply the negative effects, whether permanent or temporary, of ototoxic hearing loss.
Five kinds of chemicals that can harm your hearing were defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA:
- Metals and compounds – Metals like 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 work in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful amounts of these chemicals are often put out by things like stoves, gas engines, and other appliances.
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, including antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can harm your hearing. Speak with your physician and your hearing health specialist about any hazards posed by your medications.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove contain nitriles such as acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be useful because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
- Solvents – Specific 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 level of exposure you may have, and use all of your safety equipment.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what can you do?
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, ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Make sure you use every safety material your job provides, like 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, keeping 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 impact on your hearing. If you can’t stay away from chemicals or are on medications, be certain you have regular hearing examinations so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. We can use our experience to help you come up with a plan to avoid any further damage.