Most people are aware of the common causes of hearing loss, but some chemicals can also lead to hearing loss which can come as a surprise. At risk groups include automotive workers, plastics, textiles, metal fabrication, and petroleum. You can safeguard your quality of life by knowing what these chemicals are and what precautions to take.
Your hearing could be harmed by some chemicals
The word “ototoxic” means that something is toxic to either the ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears that help with hearing. People can be exposed to chemicals that are “ototoxic” at home or in the workplace. They can absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. 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, recognized five kinds of chemicals that can be hazardous to hearing:
- Asphyxiants – The level of oxygen in the air is decreased by asphyxiants, including things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances may put out harmful levels of these chemicals.
- Nitriles – Nitriles like 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used 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.
- Solvents – Solvents, like carbon disulfide and styrene, are employed in some industries like insulation and plastics. If you work in these industries, consult your workplace safety officer about the degree of exposure you may have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
- Metals and compounds – Metals including lead and mercury can cause hearing loss in addition to the harm they can do to other parts of the body. Individuals may frequently be exposed to these metals if they’re in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, including antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can harm your hearing. You can find out if any medications you may be using present any hazards to your hearing by consulting your physician and your hearing specialist.
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. Ask 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 provided to you, including gloves, masks, or garments, use all of it.
When you are at home, read all safety materials on products and follow the instructions to the letter. Use appropriate ventilation, including opening windows, staying away from any chemicals, and asking for help if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Take extra precautions 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 assessments so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. We are experienced in addressing the various causes of hearing loss and can help you put together a plan to prevent further damage.