There are many commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but not too many people recognize the hazards that some chemicals present to their hearing. There is an increased exposure hazard 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 maintain your quality of life.
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. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals at work or at home. These chemicals can be absorbed by inhalation, through the skin, or by ingestion. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can impact the sensitive nerves and other portions of the ear. The effect is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, resulting in temporary or long-term loss of hearing.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, defined five kinds of chemicals which can be harmful to your hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics. Consult your primary physician and your hearing health specialist about any dangers presented by your medications.
- Solvents – Specific industries like plastics and insulation use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. Make sure that if you work in one of these industries, you wear all of your safety equipment and consult your workplace safety officer about your level of exposure.
- Nitriles – Nitriles such as 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in making 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.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants decrease the amount of oxygen in the air, and consist of things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Dangerous levels of these chemicals can be produced by vehicles, gas tools, stoves and other appliances.
- Metals and Compounds – Metals including mercury and lead have other negative effects on the body, but they can also trigger hearing loss. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries could be exposed to these metals frequently.
What Can You do if You’re subjected to Ototoxic Chemicals?
The trick to protecting your hearing from chemical exposure is to take precautions. Consult your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the construction, plastics, pesticide spraying, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. Make sure you make use of every safety material your job supplies, including protective garment, gloves, and masks.
When you are home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions 100 percent. When you are using any chemicals, if you don’t understand the label, ask for help, and use correct ventilation. 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 avoid chemicals. The numerous causes of hearing loss are well understood by hearing specialists so schedule an appointment for a hearing exam in order to stop further damage.