There are lots of commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but not many people realize the dangers that certain chemicals present to their hearing. While there are numerous groups of people at risk, individuals in industries like textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Knowing what these harmful chemicals are and what precautions you should take can help protect your quality of life.
Your hearing could be harmed by certain chemicals
The ears themselves or the nerves of the ears can be toxically affected by anything that has an “ototoxic” effect. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals in the workplace or at home. They could absorb these chemicals through the skin, breathe, or ingest them. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can make their way to the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. Noise exposure will multiply the negative effects, whether permanent or temporary, of ototoxic hearing loss.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, defined five kinds of chemicals that can be harmful to hearing:
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove contain nitriles such as acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be useful because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, such as antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Talk to your physician and your hearing health specialist about any hazards posed by your medications.
- Metals and compounds – Metals like lead and mercury can result in hearing loss on top of the damage they can do to other parts of the body. People may regularly be exposed to these metals if they work in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
- Solvents – Solvents, such as carbon disulfide and styrene, are utilized in certain industries like insulation and plastics. Wear all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer if you work in these industries.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful levels of these chemicals are frequently produced by things like stoves, gas engines, and other appliances.
What can you do if you’re exposed to ototoxic chemicals?
The best way to safeguard your hearing from chemical exposure is to take key precautions. If you work in an industry like automotive, firefighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Make sure you utilize every safety material your job provides, like protective gloves, garments, and masks.
When you are at home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions to the letter. Use appropriate 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 impact on your hearing. Try to keep a step ahead of hearing loss by having regular screenings if you are using any ototoxic medications or you can’t stay away from chemicals. We can use our experience to help you develop a plan to prevent any further damage.
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