Most people recognize the common causes of hearing loss, but some chemicals can also cause hearing loss which can come as a surprise. While there are several groups of people at risk, individuals in industries like textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Knowing what these hazardous chemicals are and what safeguards you should take can help protect your quality of life.
Your hearing could be damaged by certain chemicals
The ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears can be toxically affected by anything that has an “ototoxic” effect. People can be exposed to chemicals that are “ototoxic” in the workplace or at home. These chemicals can be inhaled, absorbed, or ingested. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can make their way to the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The resulting hearing loss may be temporary or long-term, and the effect is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
Five kinds of chemicals that can damage your hearing were identified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA:
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be damaged by medications that have antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. You can learn if any medications you may be taking pose any hazards to your hearing by consulting your physician and your hearing specialist.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove contain nitriles such as acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Because nitriles repel water, they are useful, but they can also contribute to hearing loss.
- Solvents – Solvents, like carbon disulfide and styrene, are employed in certain industries like insulation and plastics. Wear all of your safety equipment and talk to your workplace safety officer if you work in these sectors.
- 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. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries might get exposed to these metals frequently.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants lower the quantity 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.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what can you do?
The ideal way to safeguard your hearing from chemical exposure is to take key precautions. If you work in an industry like automotive, firefighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Any safety equipment that is available to you, like gloves, masks, or garments, make use of all of it.
When you are at home, go over all safety materials on products and follow the instructions to the letter. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, staying away from any chemicals, and asking for help if you can’t understand any of the labels. Use extra safety measures if you are around noise at the same time as chemicals, as the two can have a cumulative impact on your hearing. If you can’t avoid chemicals or are on medications, be certain you have regular hearing tests so you can attempt to nip any problems in the bud. We are experienced in dealing with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to avoid further damage.