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There are many commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but not too many people recognize the hazards that certain chemicals present to their hearing. There is an increased exposure risk for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Realizing what these harmful chemicals are and what measures you should take can help protect your quality of life.

Why Are Certain 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. At work or at home, individuals can come in contact with ototoxic chemicals. They might absorb these chemicals through the skin, ingest, or inhale them. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can impact the delicate nerves and other portions of the ear. The ensuing hearing loss could be temporary or long-term, and the impact is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Drugs such as antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Talk to your primary physician and your hearing health specialist about any risks presented by your medications.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles like 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used to make products such as super glue, automotive rubber and seals, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be practical because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
  • Solvents – Specific industries such as plastics and insulation use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. 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.
  • Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful levels of these chemicals can be produced by gas tools, vehicles, stoves and other appliances.
  • Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be triggered by metals like lead and mercury which also have other adverse health effects. These metals are frequently found in the metal fabrication and furniture industries.

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

The solution to protecting your hearing from exposure to chemicals is to take precautions. If you work in a sector such as plastics, automotive, fire-fighting, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. If your workplace offers safety equipment like protective masks, gloves, or garments, use them.

When you are home, read all safety labels on products and follow 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 decipher any of the labels. Noise and chemicals can have a cumulative impact on your hearing, so if you are around both simultaneously, take additional 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 various causes of hearing loss are well known to hearing specialists so set up an appointment for a hearing test in order to stop further damage.

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