Many people are familiar with the known causes of hearing loss but don’t recognize the risks that everyday chemicals present to their hearing. While there are several groups of people at risk, those in industries including textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. Your quality of life can be improved by realizing what these chemicals are and how to be protected.
Why Are Some Chemicals 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 which assist our hearing. At work or at home, individuals can be exposed to ototoxic chemicals. These chemicals can be absorbed by inhalation, through the skin, or by ingestion. These chemicals, once they get into the body, will travel into the ear, impacting the delicate nerves. The resultant hearing loss might be temporary or permanent, and the impact is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
Five types of chemicals that can be hazardous to your hearing have been confirmed by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Talk to your primary doctor and your hearing health specialist about any hazards posed by your medications.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air, and consist of things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances could produce harmful levels of these chemicals.
- Nitriles – Things like super glue, latex gloves, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles such as acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Though your hearing can be damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the benefit of repelling water.
- Metals and Compounds – Metals like mercury and lead have other adverse effects on the body, but they can also cause hearing loss. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries could be exposed to these metals frequently.
- Solvents – Specific industries including plastics and insulation use solvents such as carbon disulfide and styrene 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.
If You Are Subjected to These Ototoxic Chemicals, What Can You do?
Taking precautions is the trick to protecting 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. Be certain you make use of every safety material your job offers, including protective garment, gloves, and masks.
When you are home, read all safety labels on products and follow the instructions 100 percent. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for assistance if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Noise and chemicals can have a cumulative impact on your hearing, so if you are around both at the same time, take extra precautions. If you can’t avoid chemicals or are on medications, be certain you have regular hearing tests so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. The various causes of hearing loss are well understood by hearing specialists so set up an appointment for a hearing test in order to stop further damage.