There are many commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the dangers that some chemicals present to their hearing. While there are several groups of people at risk, people in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. You can protect your quality of life by being aware of what these chemicals are and what precautions to take.
Your hearing could be damaged by certain chemicals
The ears themselves or the nerves of the ears can be toxically affected by anything that has an “ototoxic” effect. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. These chemicals can be inhaled, absorbed, or ingested. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can make their way to the fragile nerves and other parts of the ear. The resulting hearing loss could be temporary or permanent, and the impact is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
Five types of chemicals that can damage your hearing were recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA:
- Asphyxiants – The level of oxygen in the air is decreased by asphyxiants, that includes 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 such as mercury and lead have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also trigger hearing loss. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries may get exposed to these metals often.
- Solvents – Certain industries including plastics and insulation use solvents like styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. Wear all of your safety equipment and talk to your workplace safety officer if you work in these industries.
- 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 to your physician and your hearing specialist.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be useful because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what should you do?
Taking key precautions is the best way to protect your hearing from exposure to chemicals. Consult your employer about your level of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the automotive, pesticide spraying, plastics, firefighting, or construction industries. Any safety equipment that is available to you, including gloves, masks, or garments, make use of all of it.
When you are at home, go over all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions to the letter. Use appropriate ventilation, including opening windows, staying away from any chemicals, and asking for help if you can’t understand any of the labels. Loud noise and chemicals can have a cumulative effect on your hearing so if you find yourself in this kind of situation, use extra precautions. If you can’t stay away from chemicals or are on medications, be certain 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.