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There are lots of commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but not too many people realize the dangers that some chemicals present to their hearing. There is an increased exposure risk for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Knowing what these dangerous chemicals are and what measures you should take could help preserve your quality of life.

Some Chemicals Are Harmful to Your Hearing. Why?

The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic impact on either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears which help us hear. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals at work or at home. These chemicals can be absorbed by ingestion, inhalation, or through the skin. These chemicals, once they get into the body, will go into the ear, affecting the delicate nerves. The effect is even worse when it comes with high levels of noise exposure, leading to temporary or permanent hearing loss.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, recognized five types of chemicals which can be detrimental to your hearing:

  • Pharmaceuticals – Drugs like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can cause damage to your hearing. Any worries about medication that you may be taking should be discussed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
  • Solvents – Solvents, including carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in some industries like insulation and plastics. Make sure that if you work in one of these industries, you use all of your safety equipment and talk to your workplace safety officer about how much you are exposed.
  • Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants lower the amount of oxygen in the air, and consist of things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances could produce unsafe levels of these chemicals.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles including 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 advantageous because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
  • Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be triggered by metals like lead and mercury which also have other negative health effects. These metals are commonly found in the metal fabrication and furniture industries.

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

Taking precautions is the key to protecting your hearing. If you work in a sector like plastics, automotive, fire-fighting, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. If your workplace provides safety equipment like protective garments, masks, or gloves, use them.

When you are home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions 100 percent. When you are using any chemicals, if your not sure about what the label means, get help, and use proper ventilation. Noise and chemicals can have a cumulative impact on your hearing, so if you are around both at the same time, take additional precautions. Try to nip any potential problem in the bud by having a routine hearing exam if you are on medications or if you can’t avoid chemicals. The numerous causes of hearing loss are well understood by hearing specialists so make an appointment for a hearing test in order to prevent further damage.

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