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There are lots of commonly known causes of hearing loss, but few people recognize the dangers that some chemicals pose to their hearing. While there are several groups of people at risk, those in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Your quality of life can be improved by knowing what these chemicals are and how to be protected.

Why Are Certain Chemicals Hazardous to Your Hearing?

Something that has a toxic impact on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. At work or at home, individuals can come in contact with ototoxic chemicals. These chemicals can be absorbed by inhalation, through the skin, or by ingestion. These chemicals, once they’re absorbed into the body, will go into the ear, affecting the delicate nerves. The impact is even worse when it comes with high levels of noise exposure, resulting in temporary or long-term loss of hearing.

Five types of chemicals that can be hazardous to your hearing have been confirmed by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by drugs like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Any questions about medication that you might be taking should be reviewed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
  • Nitriles – Things like latex gloves, super glue, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be practical because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals such as mercury and lead have other adverse effects on the body, but they can also cause hearing loss. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries could get exposed to these metals regularly.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide contain asphyxiants which lower the level of oxygen in the air. Dangerous levels of these chemicals can be produced by vehicles, gas tools, stoves and other appliances.
  • Solvents – Solvents, including carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in select industries like insulation and plastics. If you work in these fields, speak with your workplace safety officer about how much exposure you may have, and use all of your safety equipment.

If You Are Exposed to These Ototoxic Chemicals, What Can You do?

Taking precautions is the key to safeguarding your hearing. If you work in a sector like plastics, automotive, fire-fighting, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals. If your workplace offers safety equipment such as protective masks, gloves, or garments, use them.

When you are home, read all safety labels on products and follow the instructions to the letter. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for assistance if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Chemicals and noise can have a cumulative effect on your hearing, so if you are around both simultaneously, take extra precautions. Try to nip any potential problem in the bud by having a routine hearing exam if you are on medications or if you can’t avoid chemicals. The numerous causes of hearing loss are well known to hearing specialists so make an appointment for a hearing exam in order to avoid further damage.

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