Most people know about 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.
Certain chemicals could be harmful to your hearing
The word “ototoxic” means that something is toxic to either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears that help us hear. People can be exposed to chemicals that are “ototoxic” in the workplace or at home. 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 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 defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA:
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove have nitriles including acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be useful because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants lower the quantity of oxygen in the air and consist of things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances could put out harmful levels of these chemicals.
- Solvents – Solvents, like carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in certain industries such as insulation and plastics. If you work in these fields, consult your workplace safety officer about the level of exposure you might have, and use all of your safety equipment.
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, including antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can harm your hearing. Consult your physician and your hearing health specialist about any hazards posed by your medications.
- Metals and compounds – Metals including lead and mercury can cause hearing loss on top of the harm they can do to other parts of the body. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries might get exposed to these metals often.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what can you do?
The ideal 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. Any safety equipment that is available to you, including gloves, masks, or garments, make use of all of it.
When you are at home, read all safety materials on products and adhere to the instructions to the letter. If you can, keep away from any chemicals, open up windows, use appropriate ventilation, and request help with any instructions you don’t understand. Use extra safety measures if you are around noise at the same time as chemicals, as the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. Try to stay a step ahead of hearing loss by having regular hearing exams if you are taking any ototoxic medications or you can’t avoid chemicals. We are experienced in addressing the various causes of hearing loss and can help you formulate a plan to avoid further damage.