There are many commonly known causes of hearing loss, but few people recognize the hazards that certain chemicals pose to their hearing. There is an increased exposure risk for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Your quality of life can be enhanced by realizing what these chemicals are and how to be protected.

Some Chemicals Are Harmful 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 assist our hearing. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. They may absorb these chemicals through the skin, ingest, or inhale them. These chemicals, once they’re absorbed into the body, will travel into the ear, impacting the sensitive nerves. The effect is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, causing temporary or long-term loss of hearing.

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Drugs including diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics can cause damage to your hearing. Consult your primary physician and your hearing health specialist about any hazards presented by your medications.
  • Solvents – Certain industries like insulation and plastics 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 use all of your safety equipment.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which lowered the amount of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances may produce harmful levels of these chemicals.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles such as 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.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals like lead and mercury have other adverse effects on the body, but they can also cause hearing loss. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries may get exposed to these metals regularly.

What Can You do if You’re Exposed to Ototoxic Chemicals?

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

Be certain you observe all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you take them. Use proper 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 at the same time, take additional precautions. If you can’t steer clear of chemicals or are on medications, be certain you have routine 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 make an appointment for a hearing test in order to prevent further damage.

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