There are many commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the hazards that some chemicals present to their hearing. There is an greater exposure hazard for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Knowing what these dangerous chemicals are and what precautions you should take might help protect your quality of life.
Certain Chemicals Are Harmful to Your Hearing. Why?
Something that has a toxic impact on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. At home or in the workplace, individuals can be exposed to ototoxic chemicals. These chemicals can be absorbed by inhalation, through the skin, or by ingestion. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can impact the delicate nerves and other portions of the ear. The impact is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, causing temporary or long-term hearing loss.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, discovered five kinds of chemicals that can be harmful to your hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics. Consult your regular physician and your hearing health specialist about any hazards presented by your medications.
- Nitriles – Things like super glue, latex gloves, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles such as acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Even though your hearing can be harmed by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the advantage of repelling water.
- Solvents – Specific industries including insulation and plastics use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. If you work in these fields, speak with your workplace safety officer about the level of exposure you might have, and use all of your safety equipment.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air, and consist of things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide. Dangerous levels of these chemicals can be produced by vehicles, gas tools, stoves and other appliances.
- Metals and Compounds – Metals like lead and mercury have other negative effects on the body, but they can also lead to hearing loss. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries may be exposed to these metals frequently.
If You Are Exposed to These Ototoxic Chemicals, What Can You do?
Taking precautions is the trick to safeguarding your hearing. Ask your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the construction, plastics, pesticide spraying, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. Make certain you use every safety material your job provides, like protective garment, gloves, and masks.
Make sure you adhere to 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 help if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Take extra precautions if you are exposed to noise at the same time as chemicals as the two can have a cumulative impact on your hearing. If you can’t avoid chemicals or are on medications, be certain you have routine hearing tests so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. Hearing specialists have experience with the various causes of hearing loss and can help you figure out a plan to stop further damage.