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There are many commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the dangers that certain chemicals pose to their hearing. While there are numerous groups of people in danger, those in industries including textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Recognizing what these dangerous chemicals are and what precautions you should take could help protect your quality of life.

Why Are Select Chemicals Harmful to Your Hearing?

Something that has a toxic impact on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. Particular 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. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can affect the sensitive nerves and other parts of the ear. The effect is even worse when it comes with high levels of noise exposure, leading to temporary or permanent hearing loss.

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by drugs like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Any concerns about medication that you might be taking should be talked over with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
  • Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be triggered by metals like mercury and lead which also have other adverse health effects. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries could get exposed to these metals frequently.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles including 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in making products such as automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Although your hearing can be damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the benefit of repelling water.
  • Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants lower the amount of oxygen in the air, and consist of things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Harmful levels of these chemicals can be produced by gas tools, vehicles, stoves and other appliances.
  • Solvents – Specific industries including insulation and plastics use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. Make sure that if you work in one of these industries, you wear all of your safety equipment and consult your workplace safety officer about how much you are exposed.

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

Taking precautions is the key to protecting your hearing. If you work in an industry such as plastics, automotive, fire-fighting, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals. Make certain you use every safety material your job supplies, such as protective garment, gloves, and masks.

When you are home, read all safety labels on products and follow the instructions to the letter. Use correct ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for help if you can’t understand any of the labels. Noise and chemicals can have a cumulative impact on your hearing, so if you are around both simultaneously, take added 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 steer clear of chemicals. 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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