There are lots of commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but not too many people realize the dangers that certain chemicals present to their hearing. There is an increased exposure risk for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles.
Realizing what these dangerous chemicals are and what measures you should take might help maintain your quality of life.
Why Are Select Chemicals Detrimental to Your Hearing?
Something that has a toxic effect on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. At work or at home, people can come in contact with ototoxic chemicals. They might absorb these chemicals through the skin, ingest, or inhale them. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can affect the delicate nerves and other portions of the ear. The effect is even worse when it comes with high levels of noise exposure, resulting in temporary or long-term hearing loss.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, identified five types of chemicals that can be detrimental to your hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Any worries 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 triggered by metals like mercury and lead which also have other harmful health effects. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries may be exposed to these metals frequently.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances might produce dangerous levels of these chemicals.
- Nitriles – Things like super glue, latex gloves, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles such as acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Even though your hearing can be damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the benefit of repelling water.
- Solvents – Some industries including plastics and insulation use solvents such as carbon disulfide and styrene in manufacturing. Be certain that if you work in one of these industries, you wear all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer about your level of exposure.
What Should You do if You’re Exposed to Ototoxic Chemicals?
Taking precautions is the trick to protecting your hearing. Consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals if you work in the pesticide spraying, construction, plastics, automotive, or fire-fighting industries. Make certain you make use of every safety material your job provides, like protective gloves, garments, and masks.
Make sure you follow all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you take them. When you are using any chemicals, if you don’t understand the label, ask for help, and use correct ventilation. Take added precautions if you are exposed to 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, make sure you have regular hearing tests so you can try to get ahead of any problems. Hearing specialists have experience with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you put together a plan to avoid further damage.