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There are numerous commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people recognize the dangers that certain chemicals present to their hearing. While there are a number of groups of people at risk, those in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Your quality of life can be enhanced by knowing what these chemicals are and how to be protected.

Why Are Select Chemicals Detrimental 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 come in contact with ototoxic chemicals. These chemicals can be absorbed by ingestion, inhalation, or through the skin. These chemicals, once they’re absorbed into the body, will go into the ear, impacting the sensitive nerves. The resultant hearing loss might 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 defined by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics. Speak with your primary physician and your hearing health specialist about any dangers presented by your medications.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles including 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in making products such as super glue, automotive rubber and seals, and latex gloves. Though your hearing can be harmed by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the benefit of repelling water.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals like lead and mercury have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also cause hearing loss. These metals are typically found in the furniture and metal fabrication industries.
  • Solvents – Solvents, such as carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in some industries like plastics and insulation. Be certain that if you work in one of these industries, you wear all of your safety equipment and talk to your workplace safety officer about how much you are exposed.
  • Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants decrease the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Unsafe levels of these chemicals can be produced by vehicles, gas tools, stoves and other appliances.

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

The trick to safeguarding your hearing from exposure to chemicals is to take precautions. Ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals if you work in the construction, plastics, pesticide spraying, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. If your workplace offers safety equipment including 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. Use correct ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for help if you can’t understand any of the labels. Take extra precautions if you are around noise at the same time as chemicals as the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. Try to nip any potential problem in the bud by having a routine hearing test if you are on medications or if you can’t steer clear of chemicals. Hearing specialists have experience with the various causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to prevent further damage.

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