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Most people are informed about the known causes of hearing loss but don’t recognize the risks that everyday chemicals pose to their hearing. There is an increased exposure risk for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Your quality of life can be enhanced by knowing what these chemicals are and how to protect yourself.

Why Are Some Chemicals Detrimental to Your Hearing?

Something that has a toxic effect on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at work or at home. These chemicals can be absorbed by inhalation, through the skin, or by ingestion. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can impact the delicate nerves and other portions of the ear. The effect is even worse when it comes with high levels of noise exposure, causing temporary or long-term loss of hearing.

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Drugs including antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can cause damage to your hearing. Talk to your primary physician and your hearing health specialist about any dangers posed by your medications.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals including mercury and lead have other negative effects on the body, but they can also lead to hearing loss. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries may be exposed to these metals frequently.
  • Nitriles – Things like latex gloves, super glue, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles such as acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be advantageous because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
  • 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 might produce dangerous levels of these chemicals.
  • Solvents – Solvents, like styrene and carbon disulfide, are used in select industries like insulation and plastics. Be sure that if you work in one of these industries, you use all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer about how much you are exposed.

What Should You do if You’re Exposed 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. Make certain you make use of every safety material your job provides, like protective gloves, garments, and masks.

Make sure you follow all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you use them. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for help if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Chemicals and noise can have a cumulative effect on your hearing, so if you are around both simultaneously, take extra precautions. If you can’t stay away from chemicals or are taking medications, make sure you have regular hearing tests so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. Hearing specialists have experience with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to prevent further damage.

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