Most people know about the common causes of hearing loss, but certain chemicals can also cause hearing loss which can come as a surprise. At risk groups include automotive workers, plastics, textiles, metal fabrication, and petroleum. You can protect your quality of life by knowing what these chemicals are and what precautions to take.
Some chemicals could be harmful to your hearing
The word “ototoxic” means that something is toxic to either the ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears that help us hear. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. These chemicals can be breathed in, absorbed, or ingested. 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 effects, whether permanent or temporary, of ototoxic hearing loss.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, recognized five types of chemicals that can be harmful to hearing:
- Asphyxiants – The level of oxygen in the air is reduced by asphyxiants, that includes things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances could put out harmful amounts of these chemicals.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove contain nitriles such as acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be beneficial because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
- Solvents – Solvents, like carbon disulfide and styrene, are utilized in certain industries such as insulation and plastics. If you work in these industries, speak with your workplace safety officer about the degree of exposure you may have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
- Metals and compounds – Metals like lead and mercury can result in hearing loss in addition to the damage they can do to other parts of the body. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries might get exposed to these metals frequently.
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be damaged by medications that have antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. Consult your physician and your hearing health specialist about any dangers posed by your medications.
What can you do if you’re exposed to ototoxic chemicals?
The best way to protect your hearing from chemical exposure is to take key precautions. Ask your employer about your level of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the automotive, pesticide spraying, plastics, firefighting, or construction industries. Make sure you use every safety material your job supplies, like protective gloves, garments, and masks.
When you are at home, go over 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 are unable to understand any of the labels. Use extra safety measures if you’re 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, be certain you have regular hearing tests so you can attempt to nip any problems in the bud. We can use our experience to help you make a plan to avoid any further damage.