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Most people are aware of the known causes of hearing loss but don’t realize the dangers that everyday chemicals present to their hearing. While there are a number of groups of people at risk, those in industries including textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. Recognizing what these harmful chemicals are and what safeguards you should take might help preserve your quality of life.

Some Chemicals Are Hazardous to Your Hearing. Why?

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. These chemicals, once they get into the body, will travel into the ear, impacting the sensitive nerves. The impact is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, leading to temporary or permanent loss of hearing.

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics. Any worries about medication that you might be taking should be talked over with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles such as 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in making products such as automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Though your hearing can be harmed by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the benefit of repelling water.
  • Solvents – Solvents, like carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in certain industries like plastics and insulation. Make sure that if you work in one of these industries, you use all of your safety equipment and talk to your workplace safety officer about how much you are exposed.
  • Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be caused by metals like lead and mercury which also have other harmful health effects. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries could be exposed to these metals regularly.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which lower the level of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances could produce harmful levels of these chemicals.

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

Taking precautions is the key to protecting your hearing. Ask your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the construction, plastics, pesticide spraying, automotive, or fire-fighting industries. Make certain you utilize every safety material your job offers, including protective garment, gloves, and masks.

When you’re at home, read all safety labels on products and follow the instructions 100 percent. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for assistance if you can’t understand any of the labels. Noise and chemicals can have a cumulative impact 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 regular hearing exam if you are on medications or if you can’t avoid chemicals. Hearing specialists have experience with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to prevent further damage.

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