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There are numerous commonly known causes of hearing loss, but not too many people realize the hazards that some chemicals pose to their hearing. There is an increased exposure risk 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 protect yourself.

Why Are Certain Chemicals Hazardous to Your Hearing?

Something that has a toxic effect 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. They might absorb these chemicals through the skin, ingest, or inhale them. 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, resulting in temporary or permanent hearing loss.

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Drugs like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics can cause damage to your hearing. Any worries about medication that you might be taking should be reviewed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals like mercury and lead have other negative effects on the body, but they can also cause hearing loss. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries could be exposed to these metals regularly.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which lower the amount of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances may put out harmful levels of these chemicals.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles such as 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in making products such as super glue, automotive rubber and seals, and latex gloves. Although your hearing can be harmed by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the advantage of repelling water.
  • Solvents – Solvents, such as carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in some industries like plastics and insulation. If you work in these fields, talk to your workplace safety officer about how much exposure you may have, and use all of your safety equipment.

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

Taking precautions is the key to protecting your hearing. Consult 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 are home, read all safety labels on products and follow the instructions 100 percent. Use proper 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 exposed to noise at the same time as chemicals as the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. If you can’t stay away from chemicals or are on medications, make sure you have routine hearing exams so you can try to get ahead of any problems. The numerous causes of hearing loss are well understood by hearing specialists so make an appointment for a hearing test in order to avoid further damage.

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