There are lots of commonly known causes of hearing loss, but not too many people recognize the dangers that some chemicals present to their hearing. While there are numerous groups of people in danger, those in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Recognizing what these dangerous chemicals are and what safeguards you should take can help protect your quality of life.
Some Chemicals Are Detrimental to Your Hearing. Why?
The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic impact on either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears which help us hear. At home or in the workplace, individuals can come in contact with ototoxic chemicals. These chemicals can be absorbed by ingestion, inhalation, or through the skin. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can travel to the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The effect is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, leading to temporary or long-term hearing loss.
Five kinds of chemicals that can be harmful to your hearing have been recognized by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can cause damage to your hearing. Talk to your regular physician and your hearing health specialist about any dangers presented by your medications.
- Nitriles – Things like latex gloves, super glue, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles like acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Even though your hearing can be harmed by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the benefit of repelling water.
- Solvents – Solvents, including styrene and carbon disulfide, are used in some industries like insulation and plastics. Make sure that if you work in one of these industries, you use all of your safety equipment and talk to your workplace safety officer about your level of exposure.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful levels of these chemicals can be produced by gas tools, vehicles, stoves and other appliances.
- Metals and Compounds – Metals including lead and mercury have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also trigger hearing loss. These metals are commonly found in the metal fabrication and furniture industries.
If You Are Exposed to These Ototoxic Chemicals, What Should You do?
Taking precautions is the key to safeguarding your hearing. Consult your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the pesticide spraying, construction, plastics, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. If your workplace provides safety equipment such as protective masks, gloves, or garments, use them.
Be certain you follow all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you use them. When you are using any chemicals, if your not sure about what the label means, ask for help, and use proper ventilation. Noise and chemicals can have a cumulative effect on your hearing, so if you are around both at the same time, take additional precautions. Try to get ahead of any potential problems 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 numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you put together a plan to prevent further damage.