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
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?
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
Chemicals that may cause hearing loss
continues on exactly what can be classified as ototoxic chemicals, but here are
a few that the American Speech-Language-Hearing
has identified as being potentially dangerous:
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
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
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:
sensation in your ear
How to protect yourself from ototoxic chemicals
avoiding these chemicals altogether is not realistic, here are some ways you
can protect yourself from their dangerous side effects:
- Use alternate chemicals
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
- Use proper ventilation
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.
Source: Hear Well-Live Well Blog