There are numerous commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the dangers that certain chemicals present to their hearing. While there are several groups of people in danger, those in industries like textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. Your quality of life can be improved by realizing what these chemicals are and how to protect yourself.
Some Chemicals Are Harmful 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 which help us hear. At work or at home, people can be exposed to ototoxic chemicals. They might absorb these chemicals through the skin, ingest, or inhale them. These chemicals, once they’re absorbed into the body, will go into the ear, affecting the delicate nerves. The effect is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, causing temporary or long-term loss of hearing.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, defined five kinds of chemicals that can be detrimental to your hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics. Consult your primary doctor and your hearing health specialist about any risks presented by your medications.
- Asphyxiants – Things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide contain asphyxiants which decreased the level of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances might put out harmful levels of these chemicals.
- Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be triggered by metals like mercury and lead which also have other adverse health effects. These metals are typically found in the metal fabrication and furniture industries.
- Nitriles – Things like latex gloves, super glue, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles like acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Even though your hearing can be harmed by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the benefit of repelling water.
- Solvents – Solvents, like styrene and carbon disulfide, are used in select industries like plastics and insulation. If you work in these fields, talk to your workplace safety officer about the level of exposure you may have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
If You Are Subjected to These Ototoxic Chemicals, What Can You do?
The key to protecting your hearing from chemical exposure is to take precautions. If you work in a sector such as plastics, automotive, fire-fighting, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Be certain you make use of every safety material your job offers, such as protective gloves, garments, and masks.
When you are home, read all safety labels on products and follow the instructions to the letter. Use correct ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for assistance if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Take extra precautions if you are exposed to noise at the same time as chemicals because the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. If you can’t avoid chemicals or are taking medications, be certain you have regular hearing exams so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. The various causes of hearing loss are well known to hearing specialists so schedule an appointment for a hearing exam in order to prevent further damage.