Most people know about the common causes of hearing loss, but certain chemicals can also cause hearing loss which can come as a surprise. Groups that are at risk include automotive workers, plastics, textiles, metal fabrication, and petroleum. You can safeguard your quality of life by being aware of what these chemicals are and what precautions to take.
Certain chemicals could be harmful to your hearing
The ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears can be toxically impacted by anything that has an “ototoxic” effect. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. They could absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. These chemicals can make their way to the delicate nerves of the ears once they get into the body. The resulting hearing loss might be temporary or permanent, and the effect is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, recognized five kinds of chemicals that can be harmful to hearing:
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the quantity of oxygen in the air and consist of 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 – Nitriles like 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in producing products including automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be useful because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
- Metals and compounds – Metals like lead and mercury can cause hearing loss on top of the damage they can do to other parts of the body. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries may get exposed to these metals often.
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be harmed by medications that contain antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. You can learn if any medications you might be using present any hazards to your hearing by talking with your physician and your hearing specialist.
- Solvents – Certain industries including plastics and insulation utilize solvents like styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. If you work in these fields, consult your workplace safety officer about the degree of exposure you may have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
What can you do if you’re exposed to ototoxic chemicals?
The best way to protect 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, ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Any safety equipment that is provided to you, like gloves, masks, or garments, make use of all of it.
Read and follow all of the safety guidelines listed on product labels. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, keeping away from any chemicals, and asking for help if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Use extra safety measures if you’re around noise at the same time as chemicals, as the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. Try to stay a step ahead of hearing loss by having regular hearing exams 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 avoid any further damage.