Most people are informed about the known causes of hearing loss but don’t recognize the hazards that commonplace chemicals present to their hearing. While there are a number of groups of people in danger, those in industries including textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Your quality of life can be enhanced by knowing what these chemicals are and how to protect yourself.
Some Chemicals Are Harmful 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 which help us hear. Some chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. They might absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can affect the delicate nerves and other portions of the ear. The resulting hearing loss could be temporary or long-term, and the impact is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, defined five types of chemicals which can be harmful to your hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs including diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Any worries about medication that you may be taking should be discussed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
- Solvents – Solvents, including carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in some industries like insulation and plastics. If you work in these fields, speak with your workplace safety officer about the level of exposure you might have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
- Nitriles – Things like latex gloves, super glue, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles like acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be practical because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
- Metals and Compounds – Metals like lead and mercury have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also lead to hearing loss. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries could get exposed to these metals frequently.
- Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which decrease the level of oxygen in the air. Dangerous levels of these chemicals can be produced by gas tools, vehicles, stoves and other appliances.
If You Are Exposed to These Ototoxic Chemicals, What Should You do?
Taking precautions is the key to safeguarding your hearing. If you work in an industry like plastics, automotive, fire-fighting, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals. If your workplace offers safety equipment like protective masks, gloves, or garments, use them.
Make sure you observe 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 understand any of the labels. Take added 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 test if you are on medications or if you can’t steer clear of chemicals. The various causes of hearing loss are well understood by hearing specialists so make an appointment for a hearing test in order to stop further damage.