There are lots of commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but not many people recognize the dangers that certain chemicals present to their hearing. While there are several groups of people at risk, individuals in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. Being aware of 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 with hearing. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals in the workplace or at home. These chemicals can be breathed in, 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. Noise exposure will increase the negative effects, whether permanent or temporary, of ototoxic hearing loss.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, identified five types of chemicals that can be harmful to hearing:
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants decrease the amount of oxygen in the air and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful levels of these chemicals are frequently put out by things like stoves, gas engines, and other appliances.
- Metals and compounds – Metals like mercury and lead have other adverse effects on the body, but they can also trigger hearing loss. People could regularly be exposed to these metals if they’re in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove have nitriles such as acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be useful because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
- Solvents – Certain industries such as plastics and insulation use solvents like styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. Wear all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer if you work in these sectors.
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be harmed by medications that contain antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. Consult your physician and your hearing health specialist about any dangers posed by your medications.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what should you do?
The ideal way to protect your hearing from chemical exposure is to take key precautions. If you work in an industry like automotive, firefighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Make sure you use all safety equipment your job offers, such as 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. If you can, keep away from any chemicals, open up windows, use appropriate ventilation, and ask for help with any instructions you can’t comprehend. Use extra safety measures 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 avoid chemicals or are on medications, make sure you have regular hearing exams so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. We are experienced in dealing with the various causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to avoid further damage.