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There are lots of commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but not too many people recognize the dangers that certain chemicals pose to their hearing. While there are several groups of people at risk, those in industries including textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. Realizing what these dangerous chemicals are and what measures you should take might help protect your quality of life.

Select Chemicals Are Hazardous to Your Hearing. Why?

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 inhalation, through the skin, or by ingestion. These chemicals, once they’re absorbed into the body, will travel into the ear, affecting the sensitive nerves. The resultant hearing loss could be temporary or long-term, and the impact is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Drugs like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics can cause damage to your hearing. Any questions about medication that you might be taking should be discussed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
  • Nitriles – Things like super glue, latex gloves, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles like acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Even though your hearing can be damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the advantage of repelling water.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide contain asphyxiants which lower the level of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances might produce dangerous levels of these chemicals.
  • Solvents – Solvents, such as styrene and carbon disulfide, are used in some industries like insulation and plastics. Make sure that if you work in one of these industries, you wear all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer about your level of exposure.
  • Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be caused by metals like mercury and lead which also have other negative health effects. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries could be exposed to these metals regularly.

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

The solution to protecting your hearing from exposure to chemicals is to take precautions. Ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals if you work in the pesticide spraying, construction, plastics, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. Be sure you use every safety material your job supplies, like protective gloves, garments, and masks.

When you are home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions 100 percent. When you are using any chemicals, if you don’t understand the label, get help, and use correct ventilation. Take additional precautions if you are around noise at the same time as chemicals because the two can have a cumulative impact on your hearing. If you can’t avoid chemicals or are on medications, make sure you have routine hearing tests so you can try to get ahead of any problems. Hearing specialists have experience with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to stop further damage.

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