There are lots of commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the dangers that some chemicals present to their hearing. Groups that are at risk include automotive workers, plastics, textiles, metal fabrication, and petroleum. You can protect your quality of life by knowing what these chemicals are and what precautions to take.
Your hearing could be damaged by certain chemicals
The ears themselves or the nerves of the ears can be toxically impacted by anything that has an “ototoxic” effect. People can be exposed to chemicals that are “ototoxic” at home or in the workplace. They can absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can travel to the fragile nerves and other parts of the ear. The resulting hearing loss might be temporary or long-term, and the effect is even worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.
Five types of chemicals that can harm your hearing were identified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA:
- Asphyxiants – The level of oxygen in the air is reduced by asphyxiants, that includes 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.
- Solvents – Specific industries including plastics and insulation utilize solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. If you work in these fields, speak with your workplace safety officer about the degree of exposure you might have, and use all of your safety equipment.
- Metals and compounds – Metals such as mercury and lead have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also lead to hearing loss. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries might get exposed to these metals often.
- Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove have nitriles such as acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Because nitriles repel water, they are useful, but they can also result in hearing loss.
- Pharmaceuticals – Your hearing can be damaged by medications that have antibiotics, analgesics, and diuretics. You can figure out if any medications you may be using pose any hazards to your hearing by consulting your physician and your hearing specialist.
If you are exposed to ototoxic chemicals, what can you do?
Taking key precautions is the ideal way to safeguard your hearing from exposure to chemicals. If you work in an industry like automotive, firefighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. You need to use every safety material your job provides, such as protective gloves, garments, and masks.
Read and follow all of the safety guidelines listed on product labels. If you can, stay away from any chemicals, open up windows, use appropriate ventilation, and ask for help with any instructions you don’t comprehend. Take extra precautions if you’re around noise at the same time as chemicals, as the two can have a cumulative effect 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 make a plan to prevent any further damage.
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