There are numerous commonly known causes of hearing loss, but not too many people recognize the dangers that certain chemicals pose to their hearing. There is an increased exposure hazard for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Your quality of life can be enhanced by recognizing what these chemicals are and how to be protected.
Certain Chemicals Are Detrimental 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 that assist our hearing. Particular chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. They might absorb these chemicals through the skin, ingest, or inhale them. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can affect the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The ensuing hearing loss might be temporary or long-term, and the impact is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
Five types of chemicals that can be hazardous to your hearing have been defined by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:
- Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by drugs like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Any concerns about medication that you might be taking should be reviewed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
- Nitriles – Nitriles including 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in making products such as automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Even though your hearing can be damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the advantage of repelling water.
- Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which decrease the level of oxygen in the air. Unsafe levels of these chemicals can be produced by gas tools, vehicles, stoves and other appliances.
- Metals and Compounds – Metals such as lead and mercury have other negative effects on the body, but they can also lead to hearing loss. These metals are frequently found in the furniture and metal fabrication industries.
- Solvents – Solvents, including styrene and carbon disulfide, are used in certain industries like insulation and plastics. If you work in these industries, speak with your workplace safety officer about how much exposure you might have, and use all of your safety equipment.
What Can You do if You’re Exposed to Ototoxic Chemicals?
The solution to protecting your hearing from exposure to chemicals is to take precautions. If you work in an industry such as automotive, fire-fighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals. Be sure you use every safety material your job supplies, like protective garment, gloves, and masks.
Make sure you follow all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you take them. Use correct ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for assistance if you can’t decipher 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 impact on your hearing. Try to nip any potential problem in the bud by having a regular hearing exam if you are on medications or if you can’t steer clear of chemicals. Hearing specialists are experienced in dealing with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you figure out a plan to avoid further damage.