Most people are informed about the known causes of hearing loss but don’t recognize the risks that commonplace chemicals pose to their hearing. There is an increased exposure risk for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Your quality of life can be enhanced by knowing what these chemicals are and how to be protected.
Why Are Some Chemicals Detrimental to Your Hearing?
Something that has a toxic effect on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic>. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at work or at home. These chemicals can be absorbed by inhalation, through the skin, or by ingestion. These chemicals, once they’re absorbed into the body, will go into the ear, impacting the sensitive nerves. The impact is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, leading to temporary or permanent loss of hearing.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, discovered five types of chemicals which can be harmful to your hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs such as diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics can cause damage to your hearing. Any questions about medication that you may be taking should be talked over with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants lower the amount of oxygen in the air, and consist of things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide. Unsafe levels of these chemicals can be produced by vehicles, gas tools, stoves and other appliances.
- Nitriles – Nitriles such as 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in making products such as super glue, automotive rubber and seals, and latex gloves. Though your hearing can be damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the benefit of repelling water.
- Solvents – Some industries like plastics and insulation use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. Make sure that if you work in one of these industries, you use all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer about your level of exposure.
- Metals and Compounds – Metals such as lead and mercury have other negative effects on the body, but they can also trigger hearing loss. These metals are frequently found in the metal fabrication and furniture industries.
What Should You do if You’re Exposed to Ototoxic Chemicals?
The key to protecting your hearing from chemical exposure is to take precautions. Consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals if you work in the construction, plastics, pesticide spraying, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. If your workplace supplies safety equipment including protective garments, masks, or gloves, use them.
When you’re at home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions to the letter. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for assistance if you can’t decipher 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 effect on your hearing. Try to get ahead of any potential problems by having a regular hearing exam if you are on medications or if you can’t steer clear of chemicals. The various causes of hearing loss are well known to hearing specialists so schedule an appointment for a hearing test in order to prevent further damage.