There are numerous commonly known causes of hearing loss, but not too many people realize the hazards that certain chemicals present to their hearing. There is an increased exposure hazard for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Your quality of life can be improved by realizing what these chemicals are and how to be protected.
Why Are Certain Chemicals Harmful to Your Hearing?
The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic effect on either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears that assist our hearing. Some 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, ingest, or inhale them. These chemicals, once they get into the body, will travel into the ear, impacting the delicate nerves. The effect is even worse when it comes with high levels of noise exposure, causing temporary or long-term loss of hearing.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, discovered five types of chemicals which can be detrimental to your hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs including diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Any questions about medication that you may be taking should be talked over with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
- Nitriles – Nitriles like 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 damage your hearing.
- Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be caused by metals like lead and mercury which also have other adverse health effects. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries could be exposed to these metals frequently.
- Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke 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.
- Solvents – Certain industries such as insulation and plastics use solvents such as carbon disulfide and styrene in manufacturing. If you work in these industries, talk to your workplace safety officer about how much exposure you might have, and use all of your safety equipment.
What Should You do if You’re Exposed to Ototoxic Chemicals?
The key to safeguarding your hearing from exposure to chemicals is to take precautions. Ask your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the pesticide spraying, construction, plastics, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. If your workplace supplies safety equipment including protective garments, masks, or gloves, use them.
Be sure you adhere to all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you take them. Use correct 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 steer clear of chemicals or are on medications, make sure you have regular hearing tests so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. The numerous causes of hearing loss are well known to hearing specialists so schedule an appointment for a hearing test in order to avoid further damage.