There are numerous commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but not too many people recognize the hazards that some chemicals pose to their hearing. While there are numerous groups of people in danger, those in industries including textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. Recognizing what these hazardous chemicals are and what safeguards you should take might help preserve your quality of life.
Why Are Some Chemicals Harmful to Your Hearing?
The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic impact on either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears that help us hear. At work or at home, individuals can come in contact with ototoxic chemicals. They could absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. These chemicals, once they get into the body, will go into the ear, impacting the delicate nerves. The effect is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, leading to temporary or long-term hearing loss.
Five kinds of chemicals that can be hazardous to your hearing have been defined by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:
- Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Talk to your regular doctor and your hearing health specialist about any hazards posed by your medications.
- Metals and Compounds – Metals like lead and mercury have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also trigger hearing loss. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries may be exposed to these metals regularly.
- Nitriles – Nitriles such as 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used to make products such as automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Though your hearing can be damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the benefit of repelling water.
- Solvents – Specific industries such as insulation and plastics use solvents such as carbon disulfide and styrene in manufacturing. If you work in these industries, speak with your workplace safety officer about the level of exposure you may have, and use all of your safety equipment.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants decrease the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful levels of these chemicals can be produced by gas tools, vehicles, stoves and other appliances.
What Should You do if You’re Exposed to Ototoxic Chemicals?
Taking precautions is the trick to safeguarding your hearing. Consult your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the pesticide spraying, construction, plastics, automotive, or fire-fighting industries. If your workplace supplies safety equipment including protective masks, gloves, or garments, use them.
Make sure you follow 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 assistance if you can’t understand 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 effect on your hearing. Try to get ahead of any potential problems by having a routine hearing test if you are on medications or if you can’t avoid chemicals. Hearing specialists are experienced in dealing with the various causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to prevent further damage.