Many people are informed about the common causes of hearing loss but don’t realize the dangers that everyday chemicals present to their hearing. There is an increased exposure hazard for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Your quality of life can be improved by recognizing what these chemicals are and how to protect yourself.
Why Are Some Chemicals Detrimental to Your Hearing?
The term “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic impact on either the ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears which assist our hearing. At work or at home, individuals can come in contact with ototoxic chemicals. These chemicals can be absorbed by inhalation, through the skin, or by ingestion. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can affect the sensitive nerves and other parts of the ear. The impact is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, resulting in temporary or long-term hearing loss.
Five kinds of chemicals that can be hazardous to your hearing have been recognized by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Consult your regular physician and your hearing health specialist about any dangers presented by your medications.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants lower the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances may put out harmful levels of these chemicals.
- Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be triggered by metals like lead and mercury which also have other harmful health effects. These metals are typically found in the furniture and metal fabrication industries.
- Solvents – Solvents, like carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in certain industries like insulation and plastics. Be sure that if you work in one of these industries, you wear all of your safety equipment and talk to your workplace safety officer about how much you are exposed.
- Nitriles – Things like latex gloves, super glue, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Though your hearing can be damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the advantage of repelling water.
What Can You do if You’re subjected to Ototoxic Chemicals?
Taking precautions is the key to safeguarding your hearing. If you work in an industry like automotive, fire-fighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals. If your workplace supplies safety equipment such as protective masks, gloves, or garments, use them.
When you are home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions 100 percent. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for help if you can’t understand any of the labels. Chemicals and noise can have a cumulative effect on your hearing, so if you are around both simultaneously, take added precautions. If you can’t stay away from chemicals or are taking medications, be certain you have regular hearing exams 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 exam in order to stop further damage.