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There are lots of commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the hazards that certain chemicals pose to their hearing. While there are a number of groups of people in danger, those in industries including textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. Your quality of life can be improved by recognizing what these chemicals are and how to protect yourself.

Why Are Certain Chemicals Detrimental to Your Hearing?

Something that has a toxic impact on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. At home or in the workplace, people can be exposed to ototoxic chemicals. These chemicals can be absorbed by inhalation, through the skin, or by ingestion. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can travel to the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The resulting hearing loss could be temporary or long-term, and the impact is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Drugs including diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Consult your regular doctor and your hearing health specialist about any dangers presented by your medications.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide contain asphyxiants which decreased the level of oxygen in the air. Dangerous levels of these chemicals can be produced by vehicles, gas tools, stoves and other appliances.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles such as 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in making products such as automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Although your hearing can be damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the benefit of repelling water.
  • Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be caused by metals like lead and mercury which also have other adverse health effects. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries may get exposed to these metals frequently.
  • Solvents – Certain industries including insulation and plastics use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. Make sure that if you work in one of these industries, you use all of your safety equipment and consult your workplace safety officer about how much you are exposed.

If You Are Subjected to These Ototoxic Chemicals, What Should You do?

The solution to safeguarding your hearing from chemical exposure is to take precautions. If you work in a sector such as plastics, automotive, fire-fighting, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals. If your workplace offers safety equipment like 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 correct ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for help if you can’t understand any of the labels. 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. If you can’t avoid chemicals or are taking medications, make sure you have regular hearing exams so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. Hearing specialists have experience with the various causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to prevent further damage.

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