Many people are informed about the common causes of hearing loss but don’t recognize the hazards that everyday chemicals present to their hearing. While there are numerous groups of people in danger, those in industries including textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Recognizing what these dangerous chemicals are and what safeguards you should take can help preserve your quality of life.
Why Are Some Chemicals Harmful to Your Hearing?
The term “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic impact on either the ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears which assist our hearing. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and people 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 travel into the ear, affecting the delicate nerves. The effect is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, causing temporary or long-term loss of hearing.
Five types of chemicals that can be harmful to your hearing have been defined by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs including antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Any concerns about medication that you might be taking should be discussed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
- Solvents – Specific industries including plastics and insulation use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. Be certain that if you work in one of these industries, you use all of your safety equipment and talk to your workplace safety officer about how much you are exposed.
- Nitriles – Things like latex gloves, super glue, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles such as acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be beneficial because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
- Asphyxiants – Things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide contain asphyxiants which lower the amount of oxygen in the air. Dangerous levels of these chemicals can be produced by vehicles, gas tools, stoves and other appliances.
- Metals and Compounds – Metals such as mercury and lead have other negative effects on the body, but they can also cause hearing loss. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries may get exposed to these metals regularly.
If You Are Subjected to These Ototoxic Chemicals, What Should You do?
Taking precautions is the trick to safeguarding your hearing. Ask your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the pesticide spraying, construction, plastics, automotive, or fire-fighting industries. Be certain you utilize every safety material your job supplies, such as protective gloves, garments, and masks.
When you are home, read all safety labels on products and follow the instructions to the letter. When you are using any chemicals, if you don’t understand the label, get help, and use proper ventilation. Take extra precautions if you are exposed to noise at the same time as chemicals because the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. If you can’t steer clear of chemicals or are on medications, be certain you have regular hearing exams so you can try to get ahead of any problems. Hearing specialists have experience with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to prevent further damage.