Many people are aware of the known causes of hearing loss but don’t recognize the dangers that commonplace chemicals present to their hearing. There is an increased exposure risk for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Your quality of life can be enhanced by realizing what these chemicals are and how to protect yourself.
Why Are Certain Chemicals Harmful to Your Hearing?
The term “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic effect on either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears that help us hear. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals at work or at home. These chemicals can be absorbed by ingestion, inhalation, or through the skin. These chemicals, once they’re absorbed into the body, will travel into the ear, affecting the sensitive nerves. The ensuing hearing loss may be temporary or long-term, and the impact is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, recognized five types of chemicals which can be harmful to your hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs such as diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Talk to your regular physician and your hearing health specialist about any dangers presented by your medications.
- Nitriles – Things like super glue, latex gloves, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be advantageous because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
- Solvents – Solvents, like styrene and carbon disulfide, are used in some industries like insulation and plastics. Make sure that if you work in one of these industries, you use all of your safety equipment and talk to your workplace safety officer about your level of exposure.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants lower the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances could produce dangerous levels of these chemicals.
- Metals and Compounds – Metals like lead and mercury have other negative effects on the body, but they can also trigger hearing loss. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries could be exposed to these metals frequently.
What Should You do if You’re Exposed to Ototoxic Chemicals?
Taking precautions is the key to safeguarding your hearing. If you work in an industry like automotive, fire-fighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals. Be sure you utilize every safety material your job supplies, like protective gloves, garments, and masks.
When you’re at home, read all safety labels on products and follow the instructions 100 percent. When you are using any chemicals, if your not sure about what the label means, ask for help, and use proper ventilation. Take extra precautions if you are around noise at the same time as chemicals because the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. If you can’t stay away from chemicals or are taking medications, make sure you have regular hearing tests so you can try to get ahead of any problems. 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.