Many people are aware of the known causes of hearing loss but don’t realize the risks that commonplace chemicals present to their hearing. There is an increased exposure risk for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Knowing what these dangerous chemicals are and what precautions you should take might help protect your quality of life.
Select Chemicals Are Detrimental to Your Hearing. Why?
The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic effect on either the ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears which help us hear. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. These chemicals can be absorbed by inhalation, through the skin, or by ingestion. These chemicals, once they get into the body, will go into the ear, affecting the sensitive nerves. The impact is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, leading to temporary or permanent hearing loss.
Five kinds of chemicals that can be harmful to your hearing have been identified by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:
- Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by drugs like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Talk to your regular doctor and your hearing health specialist about any risks presented by your medications.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances may produce unsafe levels of these chemicals.
- Nitriles – Nitriles such as 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in making products such as automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Although your hearing can be harmed by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the benefit of repelling water.
- Solvents – Solvents, including styrene and carbon disulfide, are used in select industries like insulation and plastics. If you work in these industries, talk to your workplace safety officer about how much exposure you might have, and use all of your safety equipment.
- Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be triggered by metals like lead and mercury which also have other negative health effects. These metals are frequently found in the furniture and metal fabrication industries.
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. Consult your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the construction, plastics, pesticide spraying, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. If your workplace offers safety equipment like protective masks, gloves, or garments, use them.
When you’re at home, read all safety labels on products and follow the instructions 100 percent. When you are using any chemicals, if you don’t understand the label, ask for help, and use correct ventilation. Noise and chemicals can have a cumulative effect on your hearing, so if you are around both simultaneously, take extra precautions. Try to get ahead of any potential problems by having a regular hearing exam if you are on medications or if you can’t avoid chemicals. The various causes of hearing loss are well known to hearing specialists so make an appointment for a hearing exam in order to avoid further damage.