There are lots of well known causes of hearing loss, but few people recognize the dangers that some chemicals present to their hearing. While there are several groups of people at risk, people in industries like textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Being aware of what these hazardous chemicals are and what safeguards you should take can help preserve your quality of life.
Certain chemicals could be harmful to your hearing
The ears themselves or the nerves of the ears can be toxically impacted by anything that has an “ototoxic” effect. People can be exposed to chemicals that are “ototoxic” in the workplace or at home. These chemicals can be breathed in, absorbed, or ingested. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can travel to the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The resulting hearing loss could be temporary or long-term, and the effect is even worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
Five types of chemicals that can harm your hearing were defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA:
- Metals and compounds – Metals such as mercury and lead have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also trigger hearing loss. People may regularly be exposed to these metals if they’re in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air and consist of things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful amounts of these chemicals are frequently produced by things like stoves, gas engines, and other appliances.
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, such as antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can harm your hearing. You can find out if any medications you may be taking present any hazards to your hearing by talking with your physician and your hearing specialist.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Because nitriles repel water, they are beneficial, but they can also cause hearing loss.
- Solvents – Specific industries such as 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.
What should you do if you’re exposed to ototoxic chemicals?
Taking key precautions is the ideal way to protect 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 use all safety equipment your job supplies, such as protective gloves, garments, and masks.
Read and follow all of the safety instructions listed on product labels. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, keeping away from any chemicals, and asking for help if you can’t understand any of the labels. Loud noise and chemicals can have a cumulative effect on your hearing so if you find yourself in this type of scenario, take extra precautions. If you can’t stay away from chemicals or are on medications, make sure you have regular hearing examinations so you can attempt to nip any problems in the bud. We can use our experience to help you make a plan to avoid any further damage.