There are numerous commonly known causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the hazards that some chemicals pose to their hearing. There is an increased exposure hazard for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Recognizing what these hazardous chemicals are and what precautions you should take might help protect your quality of life.

Certain Chemicals Are Detrimental to Your Hearing. Why?

Something that has a toxic impact on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. At home or in the workplace, people can come in contact with ototoxic chemicals. These chemicals can be absorbed by inhalation, through the skin, or by ingestion. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can travel to the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The effect is even worse when it comes with high levels of noise exposure, resulting in temporary or long-term loss of hearing.

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by drugs like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics. Consult your primary doctor and your hearing health specialist about any risks presented by your medications.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals such as mercury and lead have other negative effects on the body, but they can also lead to hearing loss. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries could get exposed to these metals regularly.
  • Solvents – Some industries like insulation and plastics use solvents such as carbon disulfide and styrene in manufacturing. 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 your level of exposure.
  • Nitriles – Things like super glue, latex gloves, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles such as 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 tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide contain asphyxiants which decreased the amount of oxygen in the air. Harmful levels of these chemicals can be produced by gas tools, vehicles, stoves and other appliances.

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

The solution to safeguarding your hearing from chemical exposure is to take precautions. If you work in an industry including automotive, fire-fighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. If your workplace offers safety equipment such as protective garments, masks, or gloves, use them.

When you are home, read all safety labels on products and follow the instructions 100 percent. When you are using any chemicals, if your not sure about what the label means, ask for help, and use correct ventilation. 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 regular hearing test if you are on medications or if you can’t steer clear of chemicals. The numerous causes of hearing loss are well understood by hearing specialists so set up an appointment for a hearing exam in order to avoid further damage.

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