Many people are aware of the known causes of hearing loss but don’t comprehend the risks that commonplace chemicals pose to their hearing. There is an greater exposure hazard for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Recognizing what these harmful chemicals are and what precautions you should take can help protect your quality of life.
Why Are Some Chemicals Harmful to Your Hearing?
The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic effect on either the ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears that assist our hearing. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. These chemicals can be absorbed by inhalation, through the skin, or by ingestion. These chemicals, once they get into the body, will travel into the ear, impacting the delicate nerves. The impact is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, causing temporary or long-term hearing loss.
Five kinds of chemicals that can be harmful to your hearing have been confirmed by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs such as antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Any concerns about medication that you may be taking should be discussed with your doctor and your audiologist.
- Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which decrease the level of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances may put out harmful levels of these chemicals.
- Solvents – Solvents, including styrene and carbon disulfide, are used in certain industries like plastics and insulation. Be sure that if you work in one of these industries, you use all of your safety equipment and consult your workplace safety officer about your level of exposure.
- Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be caused by metals like mercury and lead which also have other harmful health effects. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries could get exposed to these metals frequently.
- Nitriles – Things like super glue, latex gloves, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be beneficial because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
What Can You do if You’re Exposed to Ototoxic Chemicals?
Taking precautions is the trick to safeguarding your hearing. If you work in a sector such as plastics, automotive, fire-fighting, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Be certain you make use of every safety material your job supplies, such as protective gloves, garments, and masks.
When you are home, read all safety labels on products and follow the instructions 100 percent. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for assistance if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Chemicals and noise can have a cumulative impact on your hearing, so if you are around both at the same time, take additional precautions. Try to nip any potential problem in the bud by having a routine hearing exam if you are on medications or if you can’t steer clear of chemicals. The various causes of hearing loss are well known to audiologists so set up an appointment for a hearing exam in order to avoid further damage.