There are many commonly known causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the dangers that certain chemicals present to their hearing. There is an increased exposure risk for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Recognizing what these hazardous chemicals are and what safeguards you should take might help protect your quality of life.
Some Chemicals Are Hazardous to Your Hearing. Why?
The term “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic impact on either the ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears that assist our hearing. Particular chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals at work or at home. They might absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. These chemicals, once they’re absorbed into the body, will travel into the ear, affecting the delicate nerves. The resultant hearing loss may be temporary or permanent, and the impact is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
Five kinds of chemicals that can be harmful to your hearing have been defined by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:
- Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Any questions about medication that you might be taking should be talked over with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants decrease the amount of oxygen in the air, and consist of things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide. Unsafe levels of these chemicals can be produced by gas tools, vehicles, stoves and other appliances.
- Nitriles – Nitriles such as 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used to make products such as automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be practical because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
- Solvents – Solvents, like styrene and carbon disulfide, are used in select industries like insulation and plastics. Make sure that if you work in one of these industries, you wear all of your safety equipment and talk to your workplace safety officer about your level of exposure.
- Metals and Compounds – Metals including mercury and lead have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also trigger hearing loss. These metals are commonly found in the furniture and metal fabrication industries.
What Can You do if You’re subjected to Ototoxic Chemicals?
Taking precautions is the key to safeguarding your hearing. If you work in a sector including automotive, fire-fighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals. If your workplace offers safety equipment including protective garments, masks, or gloves, use them.
When you are home, read all safety labels on products and follow the instructions to the letter. Use correct ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for help if you can’t understand any of the labels. Noise and chemicals can have a cumulative impact on your hearing, so if you are around both simultaneously, take additional precautions. Try to get ahead of any potential problems by having a regular hearing test if you are on medications or if you can’t avoid chemicals. The numerous causes of hearing loss are well known to hearing specialists so set up an appointment for a hearing exam in order to prevent further damage.