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 several groups of people at risk, people in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Knowing what these harmful chemicals are and what precautions you should take can help preserve your quality of life.
Your hearing could be damaged by some chemicals
The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic effect on either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears that help us hear. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. They could absorb these chemicals through the skin, breathe, 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 effect is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, recognized five types of chemicals that can be hazardous to hearing:
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be damaged by medications that have antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. Consult 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. Because nitriles repel water, they are useful, but they can also result in hearing loss.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants lower the amount of oxygen in the air and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful levels of these chemicals are frequently put out by things like stoves, gas engines, and other appliances.
- Metals and compounds – Metals including lead and mercury can result in hearing loss on top of the harm they can do to other parts of the body. Individuals in the fabricated metal or furniture sectors might get exposed to these metals frequently.
- Solvents – Solvents, such as carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in some industries like insulation and plastics. Use all of your safety equipment and talk to your workplace safety officer if you work in these sectors.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what should you do?
The ideal way to protect 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. You need to use all safety equipment your job provides, like protective gloves, garments, and masks.
Read and follow all of the safety guidelines listed on product labels. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, keeping away from any chemicals, and asking for help if you can’t decipher 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. If you can’t stay away from chemicals or are on medications, make sure you have regular hearing exams so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. We can use our experience to help you develop a plan to avoid any further damage.