There are many well recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people recognize the dangers that certain chemicals pose to their hearing. While there are numerous groups of people at risk, people in industries like textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. Being aware of what these harmful chemicals are and what precautions you should take can help preserve your quality of life.
Your hearing could be damaged by some chemicals
The ears themselves or the nerves of the ears can be toxically affected by anything that has an “ototoxic” effect. People can be exposed to chemicals that are “ototoxic” at home or in the workplace. These chemicals can be inhaled, absorbed, or ingested. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can travel to the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. Noise exposure will multiply 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 hazardous to hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be harmed by medications that have antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. You can find out if any medications you may be using present any hazards to your hearing by consulting your physician and your hearing specialist.
- Asphyxiants – The level of oxygen in the air is reduced by asphyxiants, including things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful levels of these chemicals are often put out by things like stoves, gas engines, and other appliances.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be useful because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
- Solvents – Specific industries including plastics and insulation utilize solvents like styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. Use all of your safety equipment and consult your workplace safety officer if you work in these industries.
- Metals and compounds – Metals including lead and mercury can cause hearing loss in addition to the harm they can do to other parts of the body. People may frequently be exposed to these metals if they work in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
What should you do if you’re exposed to ototoxic chemicals?
The best way to safeguard your hearing from chemical exposure is to take key precautions. If you work in an industry such as automotive, firefighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Make sure you use every safety material your job offers, like protective gloves, garments, and masks.
Read and follow all of the safety guidelines listed on product labels. If you can, stay away from any chemicals, open up windows, use proper ventilation, and ask for help with any instructions you can’t comprehend. Take extra 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 keep a step ahead of hearing loss by getting regular hearing exams if you are taking any ototoxic medications or you can’t avoid chemicals. We are experienced in dealing with the various causes of hearing loss and can help you put together a plan to prevent further damage.