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Most people are aware of the known causes of hearing loss but don’t realize the hazards that everyday chemicals present to their hearing. While there are a number of groups of people at risk, those in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. Your quality of life can be enhanced by knowing what these chemicals are and how to be protected.

Why Are Select Chemicals Harmful to Your Hearing?

The term “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic impact on either the ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears which help us hear. At home or in the workplace, individuals can come in contact with ototoxic chemicals. These chemicals can be absorbed by inhalation, through the skin, or by ingestion. These chemicals, once they get into the body, will travel into the ear, impacting the sensitive nerves. The resultant hearing loss may be temporary or long-term, and the effect is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics. Speak with your regular doctor and your hearing health specialist about any hazards posed by your medications.
  • Solvents – Some industries including plastics and insulation use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. If you work in these fields, speak with your workplace safety officer about the level of exposure you may have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
  • Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be triggered by metals like lead and mercury which also have other harmful health effects. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries may be exposed to these metals regularly.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles like 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in making products such as super glue, automotive rubber and seals, and latex gloves. Although your hearing can be damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the benefit of repelling water.
  • Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants decrease the amount of oxygen in the air, and consist of things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide. 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?

Taking precautions is the trick to protecting your hearing. If you work in a sector like plastics, automotive, fire-fighting, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals. Make sure you utilize every safety material your job provides, including protective gloves, garments, and masks.

Be sure you follow all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you take them. Use correct ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for help if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Take extra precautions if you are exposed to noise at the same time as chemicals because the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. Try to get ahead of any potential problems by having a routine hearing test if you are on medications or if you can’t avoid chemicals. The numerous causes of hearing loss are well known to hearing specialists so set up an appointment for a hearing exam in order to prevent further damage.

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