There are lots of commonly known causes of hearing loss, but not too many people recognize the dangers that some chemicals present to their hearing. There is an increased exposure hazard for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Knowing what these hazardous chemicals are and what safeguards you should take could help preserve your quality of life.
Some Chemicals Are Harmful to Your Hearing. Why?
Something that has a toxic effect on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic>. At home or in the workplace, individuals can come in contact with ototoxic chemicals. These chemicals can be absorbed by inhalation, through the skin, or by ingestion. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can affect the delicate nerves and other portions of the ear. The resultant hearing loss could be temporary or permanent, and the effect is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, recognized five kinds of chemicals that can be harmful to your hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by drugs like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Talk to your primary doctor and your hearing health specialist about any risks presented by your medications.
- Metals and Compounds – Metals such as mercury and lead have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also cause hearing loss. These metals are typically found in the metal fabrication and furniture industries.
- Nitriles – Nitriles such as 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in making products such as super glue, automotive rubber and seals, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be practical because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
- Solvents – Solvents, including carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in select industries like plastics and insulation. Make sure that if you work in one of these industries, you use all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer about your level of exposure.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Unsafe levels of these chemicals can be produced by gas tools, vehicles, stoves and other appliances.
If You Are Exposed to These Ototoxic Chemicals, What Should You do?
The key to protecting your hearing from exposure to chemicals is to take precautions. Consult your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the pesticide spraying, construction, plastics, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. If your workplace provides safety equipment including protective masks, gloves, or garments, use them.
Be sure you adhere to all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you use them. When you are using any chemicals, if your not sure about what the label means, ask for help, and use correct ventilation. Chemicals and noise can have a cumulative effect on your hearing, so if you are around both at the same time, take extra precautions. Try to nip any potential problem in the bud by having a regular hearing exam if you are on medications or if you can’t avoid chemicals. Hearing specialists are experienced in dealing with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you put together a plan to avoid further damage.