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Most people are familiar with the common causes of hearing loss but don’t realize the risks that everyday chemicals present to their hearing. There is an increased exposure hazard 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 protect yourself.

Why Are Certain Chemicals Hazardous to Your Hearing?

Something that has a toxic effect 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 get into the body, they can impact the sensitive nerves and other portions of the ear. The resultant hearing loss might be temporary or permanent, and the effect is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, identified five types of chemicals which can be detrimental to your hearing:

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by drugs like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Speak with your primary doctor and your hearing health specialist about any dangers posed by your medications.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles including 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used to make products such as super glue, automotive rubber and seals, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be advantageous because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
  • Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be caused by metals like mercury and lead which also have other negative health effects. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries may be exposed to these metals frequently.
  • Solvents – Solvents, including carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in certain industries like plastics and insulation. If you work in these fields, speak with your workplace safety officer about the level of exposure you might have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
  • Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air, and consist of things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances might produce harmful levels of these chemicals.

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

Taking precautions is the key to protecting your hearing. Consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals if you work in the construction, plastics, pesticide spraying, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. Be sure you make use of every safety material your job offers, like protective garment, gloves, and masks.

When you are home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions to the letter. When you are using any chemicals, if your not sure about what the label means, ask for help, and use correct ventilation. Chemicals and noise can have a cumulative effect 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 avoid chemicals. Hearing specialists have experience with the various causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to prevent further damage.

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