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There are numerous commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people recognize the hazards that some chemicals present to their hearing. While there are several groups of people in danger, those in industries including textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. Your quality of life can be improved by knowing what these chemicals are and how to be protected.

Why Are Select Chemicals Harmful to Your Hearing?

Something that has a toxic effect on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. At home or in the workplace, individuals can be exposed to ototoxic chemicals. These chemicals can be absorbed by ingestion, inhalation, or through the skin. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can impact the sensitive nerves and other parts of the ear. The resultant hearing loss may be temporary or permanent, and the effect 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 drugs like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Speak with your primary doctor and your hearing health specialist about any dangers presented by your medications.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals like mercury and lead have other adverse effects on the body, but they can also cause hearing loss. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries may be exposed to these metals regularly.
  • Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants lower the amount of oxygen in the air, and consist of things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide. Unsafe levels of these chemicals can be produced by vehicles, gas tools, stoves and other appliances.
  • Solvents – Some industries such as plastics and insulation use solvents such as carbon disulfide and styrene in manufacturing. Be certain 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.
  • Nitriles – Things like super glue, latex gloves, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be practical because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.

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

The solution to protecting your hearing from exposure to chemicals is to take precautions. If you work in a sector including automotive, fire-fighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals. Make sure you utilize every safety material your job provides, including protective garment, gloves, and masks.

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 assistance 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 added precautions. If you can’t stay away from chemicals or are on medications, make sure you have routine hearing exams so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. Hearing specialists are experienced in dealing with the various causes of hearing loss and can help you figure out a plan to stop further damage.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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