Most people are aware of the common causes of hearing loss, but certain chemicals can also lead to hearing loss which can be surprising. Groups that are at risk include automotive workers, plastics, textiles, metal fabrication, and petroleum. You can safeguard your quality of life by being aware of what these chemicals are and what precautions to take.
Your hearing could be damaged by certain chemicals
The ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears can be toxically affected by anything that has an “ototoxic” effect. People can be exposed to chemicals that are “ototoxic” at home or in the workplace. These chemicals can be breathed in, absorbed, or ingested. 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 may be temporary or long-term, and the impact is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, recognized five types of chemicals that can be harmful to hearing:
- Asphyxiants – The amount of oxygen in the air is reduced by asphyxiants, including things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances may put out harmful levels of these chemicals.
- Solvents – Solvents, such as carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in some industries such as insulation and plastics. Wear all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer if you work in these sectors.
- Metals and compounds – Metals such as mercury and lead have other adverse effects on the body, but they can also result in hearing loss. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries may get exposed to these metals often.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be useful because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, including antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can damage hearing. You can learn if any medications you might be taking pose any hazards to your hearing by talking to your physician and your hearing specialist.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what should you do?
The ideal way to protect your hearing from chemical exposure is to take key precautions. Ask your employer about your degree of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the automotive, pesticide spraying, plastics, firefighting, or construction industries. Any safety equipment that is provided to you, including gloves, masks, or garments, make use of all of it.
When you are at home, go over all safety materials on products and adhere to 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 understand. Loud noise and chemicals can have a cumulative effect on your hearing so if you find yourself in this type of scenario, use extra precautions. Try to keep a step ahead of hearing loss by getting regular screenings if you are taking any ototoxic medications or you can’t stay away from chemicals. We are experienced in dealing with the various causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to avoid further damage.