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There are numerous commonly known causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the hazards that certain chemicals pose to their hearing. There is an increased exposure hazard for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Your quality of life can be enhanced by recognizing what these chemicals are and how to be protected.

Select Chemicals Are Harmful to Your Hearing. Why?

Something that has a toxic impact on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. These chemicals can be absorbed by ingestion, inhalation, or through the skin. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can travel to the sensitive nerves and other parts of the ear. The effect is even worse when it comes with high levels of noise exposure, causing temporary or permanent hearing loss.

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by drugs like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics. Consult your primary doctor 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 carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances could put out harmful levels of these chemicals.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals including mercury and lead have other adverse effects on the body, but they can also trigger hearing loss. These metals are typically found in the furniture and metal fabrication industries.
  • Solvents – Solvents, like carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in some industries like insulation and plastics. 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.
  • 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 harmed by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the advantage of repelling water.

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

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

When you’re at home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions to the letter. Use correct 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 effect on your hearing, so if you are around both at the same time, 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. The numerous causes of hearing loss are well known to hearing specialists so schedule an appointment for a hearing test in order to prevent further damage.

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