There are lots of commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but not too many people realize the dangers that some chemicals present to their hearing. While there are a number of groups of people at risk, those in industries like textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Your quality of life can be enhanced by realizing what these chemicals are and how to be protected.
Select Chemicals Are Harmful to Your Hearing. Why?
Something that has a toxic effect on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. Some chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. These chemicals can be absorbed by ingestion, inhalation, or through the skin. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can impact the delicate nerves and other portions of the ear. The effect is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, causing temporary or long-term loss of hearing.
Five kinds of chemicals that can be harmful to your hearing have been confirmed by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:
- Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics. Any questions about medication that you might be taking should be reviewed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
- Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be caused by metals like lead and mercury which also have other negative health effects. These metals are typically found in the metal fabrication and furniture industries.
- Asphyxiants – Things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide contain asphyxiants which lowered the level of oxygen in the air. Harmful levels of these chemicals can be produced by gas tools, vehicles, stoves and other appliances.
- Solvents – Certain industries such as insulation and plastics use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. Make sure that if you work in one of these industries, you wear all of your safety equipment and consult your workplace safety officer about your level of exposure.
- Nitriles – Things like latex gloves, super glue, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles like acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Even though your hearing can be damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the benefit of repelling water.
If You Are Subjected to These Ototoxic Chemicals, What Can You do?
Taking precautions is the trick to protecting your hearing. Ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals if you work in the construction, plastics, pesticide spraying, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. Make sure you use every safety material your job offers, like protective gloves, garments, and masks.
When you are home, read all safety labels on products and follow the instructions to the letter. When you are using any chemicals, if your not sure about what the label means, get help, and use proper ventilation. Take added precautions if you are around noise at the same time as chemicals because the two can have a cumulative impact on your hearing. Try to nip any potential problem in the bud by having a regular hearing exam if you are on medications or if you can’t steer clear of chemicals. Hearing specialists have experience with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to avoid further damage.