There are lots of commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the hazards that some chemicals present to their hearing. While there are several groups of people in danger, those in industries including textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Your quality of life can be enhanced by realizing what these chemicals are and how to be protected.
Certain Chemicals Are Hazardous to Your Hearing. Why?
The term “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic effect on either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears which assist our hearing. Particular chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. These chemicals can be absorbed by ingestion, inhalation, or through the skin. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can travel to the sensitive nerves and other parts of the ear. The resultant hearing loss might be temporary or permanent, and the impact is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, discovered five kinds of chemicals that can be detrimental to your hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Consult your regular doctor and your hearing health specialist about any risks posed by your medications.
- Solvents – Solvents, such as styrene and carbon disulfide, are used in certain industries like plastics and insulation. If you work in these industries, talk to your workplace safety officer about the level of exposure you might have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
- Nitriles – Nitriles such as 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used to make products such as automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be advantageous because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
- Metals and Compounds – Metals like mercury and lead have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also lead to hearing loss. These metals are commonly found in the furniture and metal fabrication industries.
- Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which lower the level of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances might put out dangerous levels of these chemicals.
What Should You do if You’re subjected to Ototoxic Chemicals?
The key to protecting your hearing from chemical exposure is to take precautions. If you work in an industry including plastics, automotive, fire-fighting, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals. Be certain you use every safety material your job supplies, including protective gloves, garments, and masks.
When you’re at home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions to the letter. When you are using any chemicals, if your not sure about what the label means, ask for help, and use correct ventilation. Take additional 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 routine hearing exam if you are on medications or if you can’t avoid chemicals. Hearing specialists have experience with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you figure out a plan to avoid further damage.