Most people know about the common causes of hearing loss, but certain chemicals can also cause hearing loss which can be surprising. At risk groups include automotive workers, plastics, textiles, metal fabrication, and petroleum. Being aware of what these harmful chemicals are and what safeguards you should take can help protect your quality of life.
Your hearing could be harmed by some chemicals
The ears themselves or the nerves of the ears can be toxically affected by anything that has an “ototoxic” effect. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. They may absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can travel to the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The resulting hearing loss could be temporary or permanent, and the impact is even worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
Five types of chemicals that can harm your hearing were identified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA:
- Solvents – Certain industries such as plastics and insulation utilize solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. If you work in these fields, speak with your workplace safety officer about the level of exposure you may have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
- Metals and compounds – Metals like mercury and lead have other negative effects on the body, but they can also lead to hearing loss. Individuals in the fabricated metal or furniture sectors might get exposed to these metals frequently.
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be damaged by medications that contain antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. You can learn if any medications you might be using present any dangers to your hearing by consulting your physician and your hearing specialist.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove have nitriles including acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Because nitriles repel water, they are useful, but they can also cause hearing loss.
- Asphyxiants – The level of oxygen in the air is decreased by asphyxiants, that includes things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances may put out harmful levels of these chemicals.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what can you do?
Taking key precautions is the ideal way to safeguard your hearing from exposure to chemicals. If you work in an industry like automotive, firefighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Any safety equipment that is provided to you, like gloves, masks, or garments, use all of it.
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, keeping away from any chemicals, and asking for help if you can’t understand any of the labels. Take extra precautions if you are around noise at the same time as chemicals, as the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. Try to keep a step ahead of hearing loss by getting regular hearing exams if you are taking any ototoxic medications or you can’t stay away from chemicals. We can use our experience to help you develop a plan to prevent any further damage.