Most people know about the common causes of hearing loss, but some chemicals can also lead to hearing loss which can come as a surprise. Groups that are at risk include automotive workers, plastics, textiles, metal fabrication, and petroleum. Being aware of what these harmful chemicals are and what safeguards you should take can help protect your quality of life.
Some chemicals could be harmful to your hearing
The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic effect on either the ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears that help with hearing. People can come in contact with chemicals that are “ototoxic” in the workplace or at home. These chemicals can be inhaled, absorbed, or ingested. These chemicals can travel to the sensitive nerves of the ears once they get into the body. Noise exposure will multiply the negative effects, whether permanent or temporary, of ototoxic hearing loss.
Five kinds of chemicals that can harm your hearing were identified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA:
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be beneficial because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants lower the amount of oxygen in the air and consist of things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances may put out harmful amounts of these chemicals.
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be harmed by medications that have antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. You can determine if any medications you may be using pose any hazards to your hearing by talking to your physician and your hearing specialist.
- Metals and compounds – Metals like lead and mercury can lead to hearing loss in addition to 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.
- Solvents – Specific industries such as plastics and insulation utilize solvents like styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. If you work in these industries, talk to your workplace safety officer about the degree of exposure you might have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what should you do?
Taking key precautions is the ideal way to protect your hearing from exposure to chemicals. If you work in an industry such as automotive, firefighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Whatever 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 labels on products and follow the instructions to the letter. If you can, keep away from any chemicals, open up windows, use appropriate ventilation, and request help with any instructions you don’t understand. Loud noise and chemicals can have a cumulative impact on your hearing so if you find yourself in this type of situation, use extra precautions. Try to keep a step ahead of hearing loss by having regular hearing exams if you are using any ototoxic medications or you can’t avoid chemicals. We can use our experience to help you develop a plan to avoid any further damage.