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Many people are aware of the known causes of hearing loss but don’t realize the hazards that everyday chemicals present to their hearing. There is an increased exposure hazard for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Your quality of life can be improved by realizing what these chemicals are and how to be protected.

Why Are Some 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 work or at home, individuals can be exposed to ototoxic chemicals. They may absorb these chemicals through the skin, ingest, or inhale them. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can travel to the sensitive nerves and other parts of the ear. The resulting hearing loss might be temporary or permanent, and the effect is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Any questions about medication that you may be taking should be reviewed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
  • Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants decrease the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide. Harmful levels of these chemicals can be produced by vehicles, gas tools, stoves and other appliances.
  • Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be triggered by metals like mercury and lead which also have other harmful health effects. These metals are commonly found in the metal fabrication and furniture industries.
  • Solvents – Solvents, such as styrene and carbon disulfide, are used in select industries like plastics and insulation. Make sure that if you work in one of these industries, you wear all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer about how much you are exposed.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles like 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in making products such as automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be practical because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.

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

The trick to protecting your hearing from exposure to chemicals is to take precautions. If you work in a sector like plastics, automotive, fire-fighting, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Be certain you use every safety material your job offers, including protective gloves, garments, and masks.

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 correct ventilation. Chemicals and noise can have a cumulative impact on your hearing, so if you are around both simultaneously, take additional precautions. If you can’t steer clear of chemicals or are taking medications, make sure you have regular hearing exams so you can try to get ahead of any problems. Hearing specialists have experience with the various causes of hearing loss and can help you put together a plan to stop further damage.

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