Most people are aware of the known causes of hearing loss but don’t recognize the dangers that everyday chemicals present to their hearing. There is an greater exposure risk for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Your quality of life can be enhanced by recognizing what these chemicals are and how to protect yourself.
Select Chemicals Are Hazardous to Your Hearing. Why?
The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic impact on either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears that assist our hearing. At work or at home, people can be exposed to ototoxic chemicals. These chemicals can be absorbed by ingestion, inhalation, or through the skin. These chemicals, once they’re absorbed into the body, will go into the ear, affecting the sensitive nerves. The effect is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, resulting in temporary or long-term loss of hearing.
Five types of chemicals that can be hazardous to your hearing have been recognized by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can cause damage to your hearing. Any concerns about medication that you might be taking should be talked over with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
- Solvents – Some industries such as plastics and insulation use solvents such as carbon disulfide and styrene in manufacturing. 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 such as acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Even though your hearing can be damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the advantage of repelling water.
- Metals and Compounds – Metals like mercury and lead have other adverse effects on the body, but they can also cause hearing loss. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries could be exposed to these metals frequently.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Dangerous levels of these chemicals can be produced by vehicles, gas tools, stoves and other appliances.
If You Are Subjected to These Ototoxic Chemicals, What Should You do?
The key to protecting your hearing from chemical exposure is to take precautions. If you work in an industry like automotive, fire-fighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Be sure you use every safety material your job provides, including protective gloves, garments, and masks.
When you are home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions to the letter. When you are using any chemicals, if your not sure about what the label means, ask for help, and use proper ventilation. Take extra precautions if you are around noise at the same time as chemicals as the two can have a cumulative impact on your hearing. If you can’t stay away from chemicals or are taking medications, be certain you have routine hearing tests so you can try to get ahead of any problems. The numerous causes of hearing loss are well understood by hearing specialists so make an appointment for a hearing exam in order to avoid further damage.