There are many well known causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the dangers that certain chemicals pose to their hearing. While there are numerous groups of people at risk, individuals in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Knowing what these hazardous chemicals are and what safeguards you should take can help preserve your quality of life.
Certain chemicals could be hazardous to your hearing
The ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears can be toxically affected by anything that has an “ototoxic” effect. People can come in contact with chemicals that are “ototoxic” at home or in the workplace. They could absorb these chemicals through the skin, breathe, or ingest them. These chemicals can make their way to the delicate nerves of the ears once they get into the body. Noise exposure will increase the negative impact, whether permanent or temporary, of ototoxic hearing loss.
Five types of chemicals that can harm your hearing were defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA:
- Metals and compounds – Metals including lead and mercury can lead to hearing loss in addition to the harm they can do to other parts of the body. Individuals in the fabricated metal or furniture sectors might get exposed to these metals frequently.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants decrease the amount of oxygen in the air and consist of things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful amounts of these chemicals are frequently put out by things like stoves, gas engines, and other appliances.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove have nitriles such as acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Because nitriles repel water, they are useful, but they can also cause hearing loss.
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be damaged by medications that have antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. You can find out if any medications you might be using present any hazards to your hearing by talking with your physician and your hearing specialist.
- Solvents – Solvents, such as carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in some industries such as insulation and plastics. Wear all of your safety equipment and talk to your workplace safety officer if you work in these sectors.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what should you do?
The best way to safeguard your hearing from chemical exposure is to take key precautions. Ask your employer about your degree of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the automotive, pesticide spraying, plastics, firefighting, or construction industries. Any safety equipment that is provided to you, like gloves, masks, or garments, use all of it.
Read and follow all of the safety instructions listed on product labels. If you can, stay away from any chemicals, open up windows, use proper ventilation, and ask for help with any instructions you don’t understand. Use extra safety measures if you are around noise at the same time as chemicals, as the two can have a cumulative effect 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 can use our experience to help you develop a plan to avoid any further damage.