Most people know about the common causes of hearing loss, but some chemicals can also cause hearing loss which can be surprising. While there are several groups of people at risk, individuals in industries like textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. You can protect your quality of life by knowing what these chemicals are and what precautions to take.
Your hearing could be damaged by certain chemicals
The ears themselves or the nerves of the ears can be toxically affected by anything that has an “ototoxic” effect. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals in the workplace or at home. These chemicals can be breathed in, absorbed, or ingested. These chemicals can travel to the sensitive nerves of the ears once they enter the body. Noise exposure will increase the negative effects, whether permanent or temporary, of ototoxic hearing loss.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, identified five types of chemicals that can be hazardous to hearing:
- Solvents – Solvents, like carbon disulfide and styrene, are utilized in some industries like insulation and plastics. If you work in these fields, speak with your workplace safety officer about the degree of exposure you might have, and use all of your safety equipment.
- Metals and compounds – Metals like mercury and lead have other negative effects on the body, but they can also trigger hearing loss. People in the fabricated metal or furniture sectors may get exposed to these metals often.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants decrease the amount of oxygen in the air and consist of things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances could put out harmful amounts of these chemicals.
- Nitriles – Nitriles like 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in producing products including automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Because nitriles repel water, they are beneficial, but they can also contribute to hearing loss.
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, including antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Talk to your physician and your hearing health specialist about any hazards posed by your medications.
What can you do if you’re exposed to ototoxic chemicals?
Taking key precautions is the best way to protect your hearing from exposure to chemicals. If you work in an industry such as automotive, firefighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Whatever safety equipment that is available to you, including gloves, masks, or garments, make use of all of it.
When you are at home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions to the letter. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, keeping away from any chemicals, and asking for help if you can’t 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 stay away from chemicals or are on medications, be certain you have regular hearing assessments 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 avoid further damage.