Most people recognize the common causes of hearing loss, but certain chemicals can also cause hearing loss which can come as a surprise. While there are numerous groups of people at risk, people in industries like textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Being aware of what these harmful chemicals are and what precautions you should take can help protect your quality of life.
Some chemicals could be harmful to your hearing
The ears themselves or the nerves of the ears can be toxically impacted by anything that has an “ototoxic” effect. People can come in contact with chemicals that are “ototoxic” in the workplace or at home. They may absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. These chemicals can make their way to the delicate nerves of the ears once they enter the body. The resulting hearing loss could be temporary or permanent, and the impact is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
Five types of chemicals that can harm your hearing were identified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA:
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, such as antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can harm your hearing. Talk to your physician and your hearing health specialist about any hazards posed by your medications.
- Nitriles – Nitriles like 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in making products such as automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be useful because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
- Metals and compounds – Metals including lead and mercury can lead to hearing loss on top of the damage they can do to other parts of the body. People could regularly be exposed to these metals if they work in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
- Asphyxiants – The level of oxygen in the air is decreased by asphyxiants, including things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances may put out harmful amounts of these chemicals.
- Solvents – Specific industries including plastics and insulation utilize solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. If you work in these industries, speak with your workplace safety officer about the degree of exposure you might have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
What should you do if you’re exposed to ototoxic chemicals?
Taking key precautions is the best way to protect your hearing from exposure to chemicals. Ask your employer about your level of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the automotive, pesticide spraying, plastics, firefighting, or construction industries. Any safety equipment that is provided to you, including gloves, masks, or garments, use all of it.
Read and adhere to all of the safety instructions listed on product labels. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, keeping away from any chemicals, and asking for help if you are unable to understand any of the labels. Take extra precautions if you’re around noise at the same time as chemicals, as the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. If you can’t avoid chemicals or are on medications, be certain you have regular hearing examinations so you can attempt to nip any problems in the bud. We are experienced in addressing the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to prevent further damage.