Many people are familiar with the known causes of hearing loss but don’t comprehend the hazards that everyday chemicals pose to their hearing. While there are numerous groups of people in danger, those in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Recognizing what these dangerous chemicals are and what measures you should take can help protect your quality of life.
Some Chemicals Are Harmful 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 that assist our hearing. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at work or at home. They might absorb these chemicals through the skin, ingest, or inhale them. These chemicals, once they’re absorbed into the body, will go into the ear, impacting the delicate nerves. The impact is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, leading to temporary or permanent hearing loss.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, identified five types of chemicals which can be hazardous to your hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs such as antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can cause damage to your hearing. Any questions about medication that you may be taking should be discussed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
- Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be triggered by metals like lead and mercury which also have other negative health effects. These metals are frequently found in the metal fabrication and furniture industries.
- 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 practical because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
- Solvents – Solvents, like carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in certain industries like insulation and plastics. Be sure that if you work in one of these industries, you wear all of your safety equipment and consult your workplace safety officer about how much you are exposed.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants decrease the amount of oxygen in the air, and consist of things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful levels of these chemicals can be produced by gas tools, vehicles, stoves and other appliances.
If You Are Exposed to These Ototoxic Chemicals, What Can You do?
The trick to protecting your hearing from exposure to chemicals is to take precautions. Consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals if you work in the pesticide spraying, construction, plastics, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. Make certain you use every safety material your job offers, such as protective gloves, garments, and masks.
Be certain you observe all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you use them. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for help if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Noise and chemicals can have a cumulative effect on your hearing, so if you are around both at the same time, take added precautions. If you can’t avoid chemicals or are on medications, be certain you have regular hearing tests so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. The various causes of hearing loss are well understood by hearing specialists so make an appointment for a hearing test in order to avoid further damage.