Most people are aware of the common causes of hearing loss, but certain chemicals can also lead to hearing loss which can come as a surprise. While there are several groups of people at risk, those in industries like textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. You can safeguard your quality of life by knowing what these chemicals are and what precautions to take.
Some 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 with hearing. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals in the workplace or at home. These chemicals can be breathed in, absorbed, or ingested. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can make their way to the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The resulting hearing loss could be temporary or long-term, and the impact is even worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, identified five types of chemicals that can be hazardous to hearing:
- Solvents – Specific industries such as plastics and insulation use solvents like styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. Use all of your safety equipment and talk to your workplace safety officer if you work in these sectors.
- Metals and compounds – Metals like mercury and lead have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also result in hearing loss. Individuals could frequently be exposed to these metals if they work in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be harmed by medications that have antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. Speak with your physician and your hearing health specialist about any hazards posed by your medications.
- Asphyxiants – The amount of oxygen in the air is reduced by asphyxiants, including things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful levels of these chemicals are frequently produced by things like stoves, gas engines, and other appliances.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove contain nitriles such as acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Because nitriles repel water, they are useful, but they can also cause hearing loss.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what should you do?
The best way to protect your hearing from chemical exposure is to take key precautions. If you work in an industry such as automotive, firefighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. 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. Loud noise and chemicals can have a cumulative impact on your hearing so if you find yourself in this type of scenario, use extra precautions. Try to stay a step ahead of hearing loss by getting regular screenings if you are taking any ototoxic medications or you can’t avoid chemicals. We can use our experience to help you develop a plan to avoid any further damage.