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There are many commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the dangers that certain chemicals present to their hearing. There is an increased exposure hazard for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Knowing what these dangerous chemicals are and what measures you should take might help maintain your quality of life.

Why Are Some Chemicals Detrimental to Your Hearing?

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

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Drugs such as antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can cause damage to your hearing. Talk to your regular physician and your hearing health specialist about any risks posed by your medications.
  • Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants decrease the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances may put out dangerous levels of these chemicals.
  • Solvents – Solvents, including styrene and carbon disulfide, are used in select industries like plastics and insulation. If you work in these fields, speak with your workplace safety officer about how much exposure you might have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
  • Nitriles – Things like latex gloves, super glue, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles like acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be beneficial because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
  • Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be triggered by metals like mercury and lead which also have other negative health effects. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries could get exposed to these metals regularly.

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

The solution to protecting your hearing from exposure to chemicals is to take precautions. If you work in a sector like automotive, fire-fighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult 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 adhere to 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. If you can’t avoid chemicals or are taking medications, be certain you have regular hearing exams so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. The numerous causes of hearing loss are well understood by hearing specialists so schedule an appointment for a hearing test in order to prevent further damage.

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