Most people are aware of the common causes of hearing loss, but some chemicals can also lead to hearing loss which can be surprising. Groups that are at risk include automotive workers, plastics, textiles, metal fabrication, and petroleum. Knowing what these hazardous chemicals are and what safeguards you should take can help preserve your quality of life.
Certain chemicals could be hazardous to your hearing
The ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears can be toxically affected by anything that has an “ototoxic” effect. People can come in contact with chemicals that are “ototoxic” in the workplace or at home. They could absorb these chemicals through the skin, breathe, or ingest them. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can travel to the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. Noise exposure will increase the negative impact, whether permanent or temporary, of ototoxic hearing loss.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, defined five kinds of chemicals that can be harmful to hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, such as antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Talk to your physician and your hearing health specialist about any dangers posed by your medications.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove contain nitriles such as acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be useful because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
- Metals and compounds – Metals like mercury and lead have other negative effects on the body, but they can also trigger hearing loss. Individuals in the fabricated metal or furniture industries may get exposed to these metals frequently.
- Asphyxiants – The level of oxygen in the air is decreased by asphyxiants, including things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful amounts of these chemicals are often produced by things like stoves, gas engines, and other appliances.
- Solvents – Certain industries such as plastics and insulation utilize solvents like styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. Wear all of your safety equipment and talk to your workplace safety officer if you work in these sectors.
What should you do if you’re exposed to ototoxic chemicals?
Taking key precautions is the best way to protect your hearing from exposure to chemicals. Consult your employer about your level of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the automotive, pesticide spraying, plastics, firefighting, or construction industries. You need to use all safety equipment your job offers, like protective gloves, garments, and masks.
When you are at home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions to the letter. If you can, stay away from any chemicals, open up windows, use appropriate ventilation, and ask for help with any instructions you can’t understand. Take extra precautions if you’re around noise at the same time as chemicals, as the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. If you can’t stay away from chemicals or are on medications, make sure you have regular hearing assessments so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. We can use our experience to help you make a plan to prevent any further damage.