There are lots of well known causes of hearing loss, but not many people recognize the dangers that certain chemicals present to their hearing. While there are numerous groups of people at risk, people in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Knowing what these harmful chemicals are and what precautions you should take can help preserve your quality of life.
Your hearing could be harmed by some chemicals
The ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears can be toxically impacted by anything that has an “ototoxic” effect. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. They can absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can travel to the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The resulting hearing loss may be temporary or long-term, and the impact is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
Five kinds of chemicals that can damage your hearing were defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA:
- Solvents – Specific industries such as plastics and insulation use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. Wear all of your safety equipment and talk to your workplace safety officer if you work in these sectors.
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, including antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can harm your hearing. Consult your physician and your hearing health specialist about any dangers posed by your medications.
- Nitriles – Nitriles like 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are utilized in making products including automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be beneficial because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
- Asphyxiants – The amount of oxygen in the air is reduced by asphyxiants, that includes things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances could put out harmful amounts of these chemicals.
- Metals and compounds – Metals such as mercury and lead have other negative effects on the body, but they can also lead to hearing loss. People may regularly be exposed to these metals if they’re in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
What can you do if you’re exposed to ototoxic chemicals?
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, ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. You need to use every safety material your job offers, like protective gloves, garments, and masks.
Read and follow all of the safety guidelines listed on product labels. If you can, stay away from any chemicals, open up windows, use appropriate ventilation, and request help with any instructions you don’t understand. Loud noise and chemicals can have a cumulative effect on your hearing so if you find yourself in this kind of scenario, use extra precautions. Try to keep a step ahead of hearing loss by having regular hearing exams if you are taking any ototoxic medications or you can’t avoid chemicals. We can use our experience to help you make a plan to avoid any further damage.