Most people know about the common causes of hearing loss, but certain chemicals can also lead to hearing loss which can come as a surprise. Groups that are at risk include automotive workers, plastics, textiles, metal fabrication, and petroleum. You can protect your quality of life by being aware of what these chemicals are and what precautions to take.
Your hearing could be harmed by some chemicals
The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic effect on either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears that help us hear. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. They can absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can travel to the fragile nerves and other parts of the ear. Noise exposure will increase the negative effects, whether permanent or temporary, of ototoxic hearing loss.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, defined five kinds of chemicals that can be harmful to hearing:
- Metals and compounds – Metals such as mercury and lead have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also lead to hearing loss. People could frequently be exposed to these metals if they work in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants decrease the quantity of oxygen in the air and consist of things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances could put out harmful amounts of these chemicals.
- Solvents – Certain industries such as plastics and insulation use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. Wear all of your safety equipment and consult your workplace safety officer if you work in these industries.
- Nitriles – Nitriles like 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 beneficial because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, including antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can harm your hearing. Consult your physician and your hearing health specialist about any hazards posed by your medications.
What should you do if you’re exposed to ototoxic chemicals?
The best way to protect your hearing from chemical exposure is to take key precautions. Ask your employer about your degree of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the automotive, pesticide spraying, plastics, firefighting, or construction industries. You need to utilize every safety material your job provides, such as protective gloves, garments, and masks.
When you are at home, go over all safety materials on products and follow the instructions to the letter. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, staying away from any chemicals, and asking for help if you can’t understand any of the labels. Loud noise and chemicals can have a cumulative impact on your hearing so if you find yourself in this type of situation, use extra precautions. Try to stay a step ahead of hearing loss by getting regular screenings if you are using any ototoxic medications or you can’t avoid chemicals. We can use our experience to help you come up with a plan to prevent any further damage.