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Many people are aware of the common causes of hearing loss but don’t comprehend the dangers that everyday chemicals present to their hearing. While there are a number of groups of people in danger, those in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Knowing what these hazardous chemicals are and what safeguards you should take might help preserve your quality of life.

Why Are Certain Chemicals Hazardous to Your Hearing?

The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic impact on either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears that assist our hearing. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals at work or at home. 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, causing temporary or permanent loss of hearing.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, identified five kinds of chemicals that can be harmful to your hearing:

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Any questions about medication that you might be taking should be discussed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
  • Solvents – Solvents, such as styrene and carbon disulfide, are used in select 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 your level of exposure.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which decrease the amount of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances might produce harmful levels of these chemicals.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals including mercury and lead have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also lead to hearing loss. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries may be exposed to these metals regularly.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles including 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used to make products such as super glue, automotive rubber and seals, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be advantageous because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.

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

The key to protecting your hearing from exposure to chemicals is to take precautions. Consult your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the construction, plastics, pesticide spraying, automotive, or fire-fighting industries. Be sure you use every safety material your job supplies, including protective garment, gloves, and masks.

When you’re at home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions to the letter. When you are using any chemicals, if your not sure about what the label means, get help, and use correct ventilation. Chemicals and noise can have a cumulative impact on your hearing, so if you are around both at the same time, take extra precautions. Try to get ahead of any potential problems by having a routine hearing exam if you are on medications or if you can’t steer clear of chemicals. Hearing specialists are experienced in dealing with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you figure out a plan to avoid further damage.

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