There are lots of well known causes of hearing loss, but not many people recognize the dangers that some chemicals pose to their hearing. At risk groups include automotive workers, plastics, textiles, metal fabrication, and petroleum. Knowing what these hazardous chemicals are and what precautions you should take can help preserve your quality of life.
Certain chemicals could be harmful to your hearing
The word “ototoxic” means that something is toxic to either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears that help us hear. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. These chemicals can be inhaled, absorbed, or ingested. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can make their way to the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The resulting hearing loss might be temporary or long-term, and the impact is even worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, defined five types of chemicals that can be hazardous to hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be damaged by medications that contain antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. Speak with your physician and your hearing health specialist about any dangers posed by your medications.
- Metals and compounds – Metals including lead and mercury can result in hearing loss on top of the harm they can do to other parts of the body. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries may get exposed to these metals frequently.
- Asphyxiants – The amount of oxygen in the air is reduced by asphyxiants, including things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances may put out harmful amounts of these chemicals.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Because nitriles repel water, they are useful, but they can also result in hearing loss.
- Solvents – Solvents, like carbon disulfide and styrene, are utilized in certain industries such as insulation and plastics. Use all of your safety equipment and consult your workplace safety officer if you work in these industries.
What can you do if you’re exposed to ototoxic chemicals?
Taking key precautions is the ideal way to protect your hearing from exposure to chemicals. Ask your employer about your level of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the automotive, pesticide spraying, plastics, firefighting, or construction industries. Make sure you use all safety equipment your job offers, like protective gloves, garments, and masks.
When you are at home, read all safety materials on products and follow the instructions to the letter. If you can, stay away from any chemicals, open up windows, use appropriate ventilation, and ask for help with any instructions you can’t understand. Use extra safety measures if you’re around noise at the same time as chemicals, as the two can have a cumulative impact on your hearing. If you can’t avoid chemicals or are on medications, make sure 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.