There are many commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but not too many people recognize the dangers that some chemicals pose to their hearing. While there are several groups of people at risk, those in industries like textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. Your quality of life can be enhanced by knowing what these chemicals are and how to protect yourself.
Select Chemicals Are Hazardous to Your Hearing. Why?
The term “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic effect on either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears which assist our hearing. Some chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. They could absorb these chemicals through the skin, ingest, or inhale them. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can affect the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The resultant hearing loss could be temporary or long-term, and the effect is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
Five types of chemicals that can be harmful to your hearing have been confirmed by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:
- Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics. Any concerns about medication that you might be taking should be discussed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
- Solvents – Solvents, such as styrene and carbon disulfide, are used in select industries like plastics and insulation. If you work in these fields, speak with your workplace safety officer about how much exposure you might have, and use all of your safety equipment.
- Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which decrease the level of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances might produce unsafe levels of these chemicals.
- Nitriles – Things like super glue, latex gloves, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Although your hearing can be harmed by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the benefit of repelling water.
- Metals and Compounds – Metals like mercury and lead have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also cause hearing loss. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries may get exposed to these metals regularly.
If You Are Subjected to These Ototoxic Chemicals, What Should You do?
The trick to safeguarding your hearing from exposure to chemicals is to take precautions. Ask your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the pesticide spraying, construction, plastics, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. Be certain you utilize every safety material your job offers, including protective garment, gloves, and masks.
Be sure you observe all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you use them. When you are using any chemicals, if your not sure about what the label means, get help, and use correct ventilation. Noise and chemicals can have a cumulative impact on your hearing, so if you are around both at the same time, take added precautions. If you can’t steer clear of chemicals or are taking medications, make sure you have regular hearing exams so you can try to get ahead of any problems. Hearing specialists are experienced in dealing with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to stop further damage.