There are numerous commonly known causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the dangers that some chemicals pose to their hearing. There is an increased exposure risk for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Your quality of life can be improved by knowing what these chemicals are and how to protect yourself.
Certain Chemicals Are Hazardous to Your Hearing. Why?
Something that has a toxic impact on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic;. At work or at home, people can come in contact with ototoxic chemicals. They might absorb these chemicals through the skin, ingest, or inhale them. These chemicals, once they get into the body, will go into the ear, impacting the delicate nerves. The effect is even worse when it comes with high levels of noise exposure, causing temporary or long-term loss of hearing.
Five types of chemicals that can be harmful to your hearing have been identified by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:
- Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Consult your primary physician and your hearing health specialist about any hazards posed by your medications.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants lower the amount of oxygen in the air, and consist of things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances could produce dangerous levels of these chemicals.
- Solvents – Certain industries such as insulation and plastics use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. If you work in these industries, talk to your workplace safety officer about how much exposure you might have, and use all of your safety equipment.
- Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be triggered by metals like mercury and lead which also have other negative health effects. These metals are typically found in the furniture and metal fabrication industries.
- Nitriles – Things like latex gloves, super glue, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles like acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be beneficial because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
If You Are Exposed to These Ototoxic Chemicals, What Can You do?
The trick to protecting your hearing from chemical exposure is to take precautions. Ask 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 supplies safety equipment such as protective masks, gloves, or garments, use them.
Be sure you follow all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you take them. When you are using any chemicals, if you don’t understand the label, get help, and use proper ventilation. Chemicals and noise can have a cumulative impact on your hearing, so if you are around both at the same time, take extra precautions. If you can’t avoid chemicals or are taking medications, be certain you have regular hearing tests so you can try to get ahead of any problems. Hearing specialists are experienced in dealing with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to avoid further damage.