There are lots of well recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the dangers that certain chemicals present to their hearing. While there are several groups of people at risk, those in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. You can protect your quality of life by being aware of what these chemicals are and what precautions to take.
Some chemicals could be harmful to your hearing
The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic effect on either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears that help us hear. Certain 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, breathe, or ingest them. 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 might 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:
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be damaged by medications that contain antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. You can learn if any medications you may be taking present any dangers to your hearing by consulting your physician and your hearing specialist.
- Metals and compounds – Metals such as mercury and lead have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also result in hearing loss. Individuals in the fabricated metal or furniture industries might get exposed to these metals frequently.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove have nitriles such as acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be beneficial because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
- Asphyxiants – The level of oxygen in the air is reduced by asphyxiants, including things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful levels of these chemicals are often put out by things like stoves, gas engines, and other appliances.
- Solvents – Solvents, like carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in some industries like insulation and plastics. If you work in these fields, talk to your workplace safety officer about the level of exposure you may have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what should you do?
The best way to safeguard your hearing from chemical exposure is to take key precautions. 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 supplied to you, including gloves, masks, or garments, make use of all of it.
Read and adhere to all of the safety guidelines listed on product labels. If you can, keep away from any chemicals, open up windows, use appropriate ventilation, and ask for 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, take extra precautions. Try to keep a step ahead of hearing loss by getting regular screenings if you are using 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.