Many people are informed about the common causes of hearing loss but don’t realize the dangers that commonplace chemicals pose to their hearing. There is an greater exposure hazard for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Recognizing what these hazardous chemicals are and what measures you should take could help preserve your quality of life.
Some Chemicals Are Hazardous to Your Hearing. Why?
The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic effect on either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears that assist our hearing. Particular chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. These chemicals can be absorbed by inhalation, through the skin, or by ingestion. These chemicals, once they’re absorbed into the body, will go into the ear, impacting the sensitive nerves. The resultant hearing loss may be temporary or permanent, and the effect is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, identified five types of chemicals which can be hazardous to your hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Any worries about medication that you may be taking should be reviewed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
- Solvents – Solvents, like carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in certain industries like insulation and plastics. If you work in these fields, talk to your workplace safety officer about the level of exposure you might have, and use all of your safety equipment.
- Nitriles – Things like super glue, latex gloves, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles like acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Though your hearing can be damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the advantage of repelling water.
- Metals and Compounds – Metals including mercury and lead have other negative effects on the body, but they can also lead to hearing loss. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries may get exposed to these metals frequently.
- Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which reduce the amount of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances may produce harmful levels of these chemicals.
If You Are Subjected to These Ototoxic Chemicals, What Can You do?
Taking precautions is the trick to protecting your hearing. If you work in a sector including plastics, automotive, fire-fighting, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals. Make certain you utilize every safety material your job supplies, such as protective garment, gloves, and masks.
Be sure you adhere to all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you take them. Use correct ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for assistance if you can’t understand any of the labels. Noise and chemicals can have a cumulative effect on your hearing, so if you are around both simultaneously, take additional precautions. If you can’t stay away from chemicals or are on medications, be certain you have routine hearing exams so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. Hearing specialists have experience with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to stop further damage.