Hazard pictogram of occupational chemical hazards that could cause hearing loss

Most people recognize the common causes of hearing loss, but certain 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. Knowing what these hazardous chemicals are and what precautions you should take can help preserve 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. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. These chemicals can be inhaled, absorbed, or ingested. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can make their way to the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The resulting hearing loss could be temporary or permanent, and the impact is even worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, identified five kinds of chemicals that can be hazardous to hearing:

  • Metals and compounds – Metals like lead and mercury can cause hearing loss on top of the harm they can do to other parts of the body. Individuals may regularly be exposed to these metals if they work in the furniture or metal fabrication industries.
  • Nitriles – Automotive rubber and seals, super glue and latex glove contain nitriles such as acrylonitrile and butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be beneficial because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
  • Solvents – Solvents, such as carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in some industries such as insulation and plastics. Wear all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer if you work in these industries.
  • Pharmaceuticals – Drugs, such as antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can damage hearing. You can determine if any medications you may be using present any hazards to your hearing by talking with your physician and your hearing specialist.
  • Asphyxiants – The level of oxygen in the air is reduced by asphyxiants, including 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.

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. You need to use every safety material your job provides, such as protective gloves, garments, and masks.

When you are at home, go over all safety materials on products and adhere to the instructions to the letter. If you can, keep away from any chemicals, open up windows, use proper ventilation, and ask for help with any instructions you don’t comprehend. Take extra precautions if you are around noise at the same time as chemicals, as the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. Try to keep a step ahead of hearing loss by having regular screenings if you are taking any ototoxic medications or you can’t stay away from chemicals. We are experienced in addressing the various causes of hearing loss and can help you formulate a plan to avoid further damage.

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References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4693596/

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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