There are lots of commonly known causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the hazards that some chemicals present to their hearing. There is a greater exposure risk for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Your quality of life can be enhanced by knowing what these chemicals are and how to protect yourself.
Some Chemicals Are Detrimental to Your Hearing. Why?
Something that has a toxic effect on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. At work or at home, individuals can come in contact with ototoxic chemicals. These chemicals can be absorbed by ingestion, inhalation, or through the skin. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can travel to the sensitive nerves and other parts of the ear. The resulting hearing loss might be temporary or long-term, and the effect is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, recognized five types of chemicals which can be hazardous to your hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs such as diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Talk to your regular physician and your hearing health specialist about any hazards presented by your medications.
- Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be triggered by metals like lead and mercury which also have other adverse health effects. These metals are frequently found in the metal fabrication and furniture industries.
- Solvents – Certain industries like insulation and plastics use solvents such as carbon disulfide and styrene in manufacturing. Make sure that if you work in one of these industries, you use all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer about how much you are exposed.
- Nitriles – Nitriles including 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used to make products such as super glue, automotive rubber and seals, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be advantageous because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
- Asphyxiants – Things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide contain asphyxiants which lower the amount of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances may put out harmful levels of these chemicals.
What Should You do if You’re Exposed to Ototoxic Chemicals?
Taking precautions is the key to safeguarding your hearing. Consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals if you work in the construction, plastics, pesticide spraying, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. If your workplace provides safety equipment including protective garments, masks, or gloves, use them.
When you’re at home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions 100 percent. When you are using any chemicals, if you don’t understand the label, ask for help, and use proper ventilation. Take additional precautions if you are exposed to noise at the same time as chemicals as the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. Try to get ahead of any potential problems by having a regular hearing exam if you are on medications or if you can’t avoid chemicals. The numerous causes of hearing loss are well understood by hearing specialists so make an appointment for a hearing exam in order to avoid further damage.