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There are many commonly known causes of hearing loss, but not too many people recognize the hazards that some chemicals present to their hearing. While there are numerous groups of people at risk, those in industries including textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Recognizing what these harmful chemicals are and what precautions you should take can help preserve your quality of life.

Why Are Select Chemicals Hazardous to Your Hearing?

Something that has a toxic impact on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. They may absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. These chemicals, once they get into the body, will travel into the ear, affecting the delicate nerves. The ensuing hearing loss may be temporary or long-term, and the impact is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.

Five types of chemicals that can be hazardous to your hearing have been identified by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Any questions about medication that you may be taking should be reviewed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
  • Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide. Dangerous levels of these chemicals can be produced by gas tools, vehicles, stoves and other appliances.
  • Solvents – Certain industries like insulation and plastics use solvents such as carbon disulfide and styrene in manufacturing. Be sure that if you work in one of these industries, you use all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer about your level of exposure.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles including 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used to make products such as automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be practical because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
  • Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be triggered by metals like mercury and lead which also have other negative health effects. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries may get exposed to these metals regularly.

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

Taking precautions is the trick to safeguarding your hearing. If you work in a sector like automotive, fire-fighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Be certain you make use of every safety material your job offers, including protective gloves, garments, and masks.

Be sure you adhere to all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you use them. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for help if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Take added precautions if you are around noise at the same time as chemicals as the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. If you can’t steer clear of 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 set up an appointment for a hearing test in order to prevent further damage.

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