There are many commonly known causes of hearing loss, but not too many people realize the dangers that certain chemicals pose to their hearing. While there are several groups of people at risk, those in industries including textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Recognizing what these dangerous chemicals are and what measures you should take could help protect your quality of life.
Certain Chemicals Are Detrimental to Your Hearing. Why?
Something that has a toxic effect on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic>. At work or at home, individuals can be exposed to ototoxic chemicals. They might absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can affect the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The impact is even worse when it comes with high levels of noise exposure, resulting in temporary or permanent loss of hearing.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, defined five types of chemicals which can be hazardous to your hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Consult your primary physician and your hearing health specialist about any risks presented by your medications.
- Solvents – Solvents, like carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in select industries like insulation and plastics. Make sure that if you work in one of these industries, you use all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer about how much you are exposed.
- Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be caused by metals like mercury and lead which also have other negative health effects. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries could get exposed to these metals regularly.
- Nitriles – Nitriles including 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in making products such as super glue, automotive rubber and seals, and latex gloves. Though your hearing can be harmed by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the advantage of repelling water.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants decrease the amount of oxygen in the air, and consist of things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances may put out unsafe levels of these chemicals.
If You Are Exposed to These Ototoxic Chemicals, What Can You do?
Taking precautions is the trick to protecting your hearing. If you work in an industry including automotive, fire-fighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. If your workplace provides 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 proper ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for help if you can’t understand any of the labels. Noise and chemicals can have a cumulative effect on your hearing, so if you are around both simultaneously, take extra precautions. Try to nip any potential problem in the bud by having a routine hearing exam if you are on medications or if you can’t steer clear of chemicals. Hearing specialists have experience with the various causes of hearing loss and can help you put together a plan to stop further damage.