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There are lots of commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but not too many people realize the hazards that certain chemicals pose to their hearing. There is an greater exposure risk for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Recognizing what these hazardous chemicals are and what measures you should take could help protect your quality of life.

Why Are Certain Chemicals Harmful 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, 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, affecting the sensitive nerves. The impact is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, leading to temporary or long-term hearing loss.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, discovered five types of chemicals which can be harmful to your hearing:

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Any concerns about medication that you may be taking should be reviewed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
  • Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be triggered by metals like lead and mercury which also have other negative health effects. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries may get exposed to these metals frequently.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles including 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 damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the benefit of repelling water.
  • Solvents – Solvents, like 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 how much you are exposed.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which lowered the amount of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances could produce harmful levels of these chemicals.

What Can You do if You’re subjected to Ototoxic Chemicals?

The key to safeguarding your hearing from chemical exposure is to take precautions. Ask your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the pesticide spraying, construction, plastics, automotive, or fire-fighting industries. If your workplace provides safety equipment like protective garments, masks, or gloves, use them.

When you are home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions to the letter. When you are using any chemicals, if you don’t understand the label, get help, and use correct ventilation. Chemicals and noise can have a cumulative effect on your hearing, so if you are around both at the same time, take added precautions. If you can’t stay away from chemicals or are on medications, be certain you have routine hearing exams so you can try to get ahead of any problems. Hearing specialists have experience with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you figure out a plan to prevent further damage.

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