Most people recognize the common causes of hearing loss, but certain chemicals can also lead to hearing loss which can be surprising. While there are several groups of people at risk, people in industries like textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. You can protect your quality of life by knowing what these chemicals are and what precautions to take.
Your hearing could be harmed by certain chemicals
The ears themselves or the nerves of the ears can be toxically affected by anything that has an “ototoxic” effect. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals in the workplace or at home. These chemicals can be breathed in, absorbed, or ingested. 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 effect is even worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, identified five kinds of chemicals that can be hazardous to hearing:
- Asphyxiants – The level of oxygen in the air is reduced by asphyxiants, including things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful amounts of these chemicals are frequently produced by things like stoves, gas engines, and other appliances.
- Solvents – Solvents, like carbon disulfide and styrene, are utilized in some industries like insulation and plastics. Use all of your safety equipment and consult your workplace safety officer if you work in these sectors.
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be damaged by medications that have antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. Speak with your physician and your hearing health specialist about any dangers posed by your medications.
- Metals and compounds – Metals including lead and mercury can cause hearing loss on top of the damage they can do to other parts of the body. Individuals in the fabricated metal or furniture industries may get exposed to these metals frequently.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be beneficial because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what should you do?
The ideal way to safeguard 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. Whatever safety equipment that is supplied to you, including gloves, masks, or garments, use all of it.
When you are at home, go over all safety labels on products and follow the instructions to the letter. If you can, stay away from any chemicals, open up windows, use proper ventilation, and request help with any instructions you can’t comprehend. Take extra precautions if you’re 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 assessments so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. We are experienced in dealing with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you formulate a plan to prevent further damage.