It’s
common knowledge that working in the construction industry can put you at risk
for work-related injuries. From working at great heights with the risk of
falling, to operating loud machinery that can cause noise-induced hearing
loss
,
there’s ample opportunity for something to go wrong if proper safety procedures
aren’t followed. But, what about some of the seemingly innocent parts of the
job, like working with chemicals? Can they
cause health problems like hearing loss?

The short
answer is yes. Not every time, and not every chemical, but yes, there are ototoxic chemicals that can temporarily
or permanently affect your hearing. Something that is ototoxic is simply toxic,
or harmful, to the ear, including the auditory nerve, the cochlea, and the
vestibular system.

Chemicals that may cause hearing loss

Research
continues on exactly what can be classified as ototoxic chemicals, but here are
a few that the American Speech-Language-Hearing
Association

has identified as being potentially dangerous:

  • Arsenic
  • Benzene
  • Carbon
    disulfide
  • Carbon
    monoxide
  • Styrene
  • Trichloroethylene
  • Toluene
  • Xylene

Many of
these names may sound foreign, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t used them. They
can be found in paints, varnishes, pesticides, cleaning agents, and many other
commonly used products. Without a warning on the product’s label, you would
likely never know that you’re being exposed to a potentially ototoxic chemical.
A side note here: the list above includes things that the average homeowner
would come in contact with simply by doing some home improvement projects. This
is important information for everyone to
know, not just construction workers.

How can using ototoxic chemicals lead to
hearing loss?

We don’t
ingest these chemicals, and using some of them doesn’t create a lot of noise
(you’ve probably never felt the need to wear hearing protection when painting, right?),
so how do they affect your ears? They enter your body either by inhalation or
skin absorption. Over time, the fumes and gases these chemicals give off can
damage the tiny hairs or nerve fibers in the inner ear. The end result can be
hearing loss, tinnitus (that annoying ringing
in your ears), or balance difficulties.

How do you know when you are exposed to
ototoxic chemicals?

You
probably will not know every time
you’re exposed to a chemical that could be dangerous to your hearing. You can
educate yourself, however, on the most common culprits, read labels, and ask
questions. The more you know, the better the chance of being able to prevent
hearing damage. Regardless, if you experience any of these symptoms when using
chemicals, it’s a good idea to leave the work area and get some fresh air:

  • Dizziness
  • Blurry
    vision
  • Headache
  • “Full”
    sensation in your ear

How to protect yourself from ototoxic chemicals

Since
avoiding these chemicals altogether is not realistic, here are some ways you
can protect yourself from their dangerous side effects:

  • Use alternate chemicals
    Whenever
    possible, use the most natural version of the product that you can find.
  • Read labels and safety
    data sheets –

    Ototoxicity is not always clearly identified
    but ototoxic chemicals can also cause nerve or kidney damage, which may be included in the printed safety
    information.
  • Use proper ventilation
    If
    you must work with these chemicals, use them in well ventilated areas.
  • Wear personal
    protective equipment –
    Wearing gloves or a respirator, for example, can help
    limit your exposure.

Whether you work in the construction industry or not, pay attention to the chemicals you use so you can protect your health. And, if you notice any hearing changes, contact a local hearing professional right away for a thorough evaluation.

Learn More about Advanced Hearing Group

The post Can Working With Chemicals Cause Hearing Loss? appeared first on Hear Well – Live Well.

Source: Hear Well-Live Well Blog

Can Working With Chemicals Cause Hearing Loss? was last modified: August 31st, 2019 by joey