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There are lots of commonly known causes of hearing loss, but few people recognize the dangers that certain chemicals present to their hearing. There is an increased exposure hazard for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Recognizing what these hazardous chemicals are and what measures you should take might help protect your quality of life.

Certain Chemicals Are Harmful to Your Hearing. Why?

Something that has a toxic effect on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. Particular chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at work or at home. They might absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can affect the sensitive nerves and other parts of the ear. The impact is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, causing temporary or long-term hearing loss.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, defined five kinds of chemicals that can be harmful to your hearing:

  • Pharmaceuticals – Drugs like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Any questions about medication that you might be taking should be talked over with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which reduce the level of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances may produce harmful levels of these chemicals.
  • 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 – Certain industries such as insulation and plastics use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. If you work in these fields, speak with your workplace safety officer about how much exposure you might have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
  • Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be caused by metals like mercury and lead which also have other harmful health effects. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries may get exposed to these metals frequently.

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

Taking precautions is the key to protecting your hearing. If you work in an industry including automotive, fire-fighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. If your workplace offers safety equipment including protective garments, masks, or gloves, use them.

When you’re at 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 assistance if you can’t decipher any of the labels. 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 taking medications, be certain you have regular hearing tests so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. The various causes of hearing loss are well known to hearing specialists so set up an appointment for a hearing exam in order to stop further damage.

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