Most people know about the common causes of hearing loss, but some chemicals can also lead to hearing loss which can be surprising. While there are numerous groups of people at risk, those in industries like textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Being aware of what these harmful chemicals are and what precautions you should take can help protect your quality of life.
Some chemicals could be harmful to your hearing
The ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears can be toxically affected by anything that has an “ototoxic” effect. People can come in contact with chemicals that are “ototoxic” at home or in the workplace. They can absorb these chemicals through the skin, breathe, or ingest them. These chemicals can travel to the sensitive nerves of the ears once they enter the body. Noise exposure will increase the negative impact, whether permanent or temporary, of ototoxic hearing loss.
Five kinds of chemicals that can damage your hearing were identified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA:
- Nitriles – Nitriles such as 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 useful, but they can also contribute to hearing loss.
- Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, such as antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Consult your physician and your hearing health specialist about any hazards posed by your medications.
- Solvents – Solvents, such as carbon disulfide and styrene, are utilized in certain industries like insulation and plastics. Use all of your safety equipment and consult your workplace safety officer if you work in these industries.
- Metals and compounds – Metals including lead and mercury can cause hearing loss on top of the harm they can do to other parts of the body. People in the fabricated metal or furniture sectors may get exposed to these metals frequently.
- Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances could put out harmful levels of these chemicals.
What should 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 such as automotive, firefighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Make sure you use every safety material your job offers, such as protective gloves, garments, and masks.
When you are at home, read all safety materials on products and follow the instructions to the letter. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, keeping away from any chemicals, and asking for help if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Loud noise and chemicals can have a cumulative impact on your hearing so if you find yourself in this kind of scenario, use extra precautions. If you can’t stay away from chemicals or are on medications, be certain you have regular hearing tests so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. We can use our experience to help you develop a plan to prevent any further damage.
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