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There are many commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the hazards that certain chemicals present to their hearing. While there are numerous groups of people at risk, those in industries like 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 Some Chemicals Detrimental to Your Hearing?

Something that has a toxic impact on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. At home or in the workplace, people 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 travel to the delicate nerves and other portions of the ear. The impact is even worse when it comes with high levels of noise exposure, resulting in temporary or long-term loss of hearing.

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Drugs like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can cause damage to your hearing. Any concerns about medication that you may be taking should be reviewed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals like lead and mercury have other negative effects on the body, but they can also lead to hearing loss. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries could get exposed to these metals regularly.
  • Solvents – Solvents, including carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in select industries like plastics and insulation. If you work in these fields, speak with your workplace safety officer about the level of exposure you might have, and use all of your safety equipment.
  • Nitriles – Things like super glue, latex gloves, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles like acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be beneficial because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
  • Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances could produce unsafe levels of these chemicals.

What Can You do if You’re Exposed to Ototoxic Chemicals?

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

Make sure you observe all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you use them. When you are using any chemicals, if you don’t understand the label, get help, and use proper ventilation. Noise and chemicals can have a cumulative effect on your hearing, so if you are around both simultaneously, take additional precautions. If you can’t stay away from chemicals or are on medications, make sure you have regular hearing tests so you can try to get ahead of any problems. The numerous causes of hearing loss are well understood by hearing specialists so schedule an appointment for a hearing test in order to prevent further damage.

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