Most people know about the common causes of hearing loss, but some chemicals can also cause hearing loss which can be surprising. At risk groups include automotive workers, plastics, textiles, metal fabrication, and petroleum. Knowing what these hazardous chemicals are and what precautions you should take can help preserve your quality of life.
Certain 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. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. They can absorb these chemicals through the skin, breathe, or ingest them. Once these chemicals get into 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.
Five kinds of chemicals that can damage your hearing were recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA:
- Solvents – Solvents, such as carbon disulfide and styrene, are utilized in certain industries such as insulation and plastics. If you work in these fields, speak with your workplace safety officer about the level of exposure you may have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
- Asphyxiants – The level of oxygen in the air is decreased by asphyxiants, including things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances could put out harmful levels of these chemicals.
- Metals and compounds – Metals like mercury and lead have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also trigger hearing loss. People may frequently be exposed to these metals if they’re in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be damaged by medications that contain antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. Speak with your physician and your hearing health specialist about any hazards posed by your medications.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be beneficial because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what can you do?
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, consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Make sure you utilize all safety equipment your job provides, such as protective gloves, garments, and masks.
When you are at home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions to the letter. If you can, stay away from any chemicals, open up windows, use appropriate ventilation, and request help with any instructions you can’t understand. Loud noise and chemicals can have a cumulative effect on your hearing so if you find yourself in this type of situation, use extra precautions. If you can’t stay away from chemicals or are on medications, make sure you have regular hearing assessments so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. We are experienced in dealing with the various causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to prevent further damage.
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