Most people recognize the common causes of hearing loss, but some chemicals can also cause hearing loss which can come as a surprise. At risk groups include automotive workers, plastics, textiles, metal fabrication, and petroleum. Being aware of what these hazardous chemicals are and what safeguards you should take can help protect your quality of life.
Certain chemicals could be hazardous 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 help with hearing. People can come in contact with chemicals that are “ototoxic” at home or in the workplace. They can absorb these chemicals through the skin, breathe, or ingest them. These chemicals can travel to the delicate nerves of the ears once they get into the body. Noise exposure will multiply the negative impact, whether permanent or temporary, of ototoxic hearing loss.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, identified five kinds of chemicals that can be harmful to hearing:
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful levels of these chemicals are often produced by things like stoves, gas engines, and other appliances.
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be harmed by medications that have antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. You can figure out if any medications you might be using pose any dangers to your hearing by talking to your physician and your hearing specialist.
- Solvents – Specific industries including plastics and insulation use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. If you work in these fields, speak with your workplace safety officer about the degree of exposure you may have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
- Metals and compounds – Metals like lead and mercury can result in hearing loss on top of the damage they can do to other parts of the body. Individuals in the fabricated metal or furniture sectors might get exposed to these metals often.
- Nitriles – Nitriles such as 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in making products such as automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be beneficial because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
What should you do if you’re exposed to ototoxic chemicals?
Taking key precautions is the best way to safeguard your hearing from exposure to chemicals. Ask your employer about your degree of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the automotive, pesticide spraying, plastics, firefighting, or construction industries. Make sure you utilize every safety material your job supplies, such as protective gloves, garments, and masks.
Read and follow all of the safety instructions listed on product labels. If you can, stay away from any chemicals, open up windows, use proper ventilation, and ask for help with any instructions you can’t comprehend. Take extra precautions if you’re around noise at the same time as chemicals, as the two can have a cumulative impact 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 attempt to nip any problems in the bud. We can use our experience to help you develop a plan to prevent any further damage.