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There are many commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people recognize the dangers that certain chemicals present to their hearing. There is an greater exposure hazard for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Realizing what these harmful chemicals are and what precautions you should take might help preserve your quality of life.

Select Chemicals Are Detrimental to Your Hearing. Why?

The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic impact on either the ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears which help us hear. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. These chemicals can be absorbed by inhalation, through the skin, or by ingestion. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can impact the sensitive nerves and other portions of the ear. The resultant hearing loss could be temporary or permanent, and the effect is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.

Five kinds of chemicals that can be harmful to your hearing have been identified by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:

  • Pharmaceuticals – Drugs including diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Any questions about medication that you might be taking should be talked over with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
  • Solvents – Solvents, like carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in select industries like insulation and plastics. If you work in these industries, talk to your workplace safety officer about how much exposure you may have, and use all of your safety equipment.
  • Nitriles – Things like latex gloves, super glue, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Even though your hearing can be damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the advantage of repelling water.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which reduce the amount of oxygen in the air. Unsafe levels of these chemicals can be produced by gas tools, vehicles, stoves and other appliances.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals including lead and mercury have other negative effects on the body, but they can also cause hearing loss. These metals are commonly found in the metal fabrication and furniture industries.

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

The key to safeguarding your hearing from exposure to chemicals is to take precautions. If you work in an industry including plastics, automotive, fire-fighting, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals. Make sure you make use of every safety material your job offers, such as protective garment, gloves, and masks.

When you are home, read all safety labels on products and follow the instructions 100 percent. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for assistance if you can’t understand any of the labels. Take additional precautions if you are exposed to noise at the same time as chemicals because the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. 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. The numerous causes of hearing loss are well known to hearing specialists so schedule an appointment for a hearing exam in order to prevent further damage.

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