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Man spraying his lawn with ototoxic chemicals that harm his hearing.

There are lots of commonly known causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the hazards that some chemicals present to their hearing. While there are several groups of people in danger, those in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Your quality of life can be enhanced by recognizing what these chemicals are and how to be protected.

Why Are Certain 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. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at work or at home. 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 delicate nerves. The resulting 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. Talk to your regular physician and your hearing health specialist about any hazards 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. Though your hearing can be harmed by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the advantage of repelling water.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals including mercury and lead have other adverse effects on the body, but they can also trigger hearing loss. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries may be exposed to these metals regularly.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which decrease the level of oxygen in the air. Dangerous levels of these chemicals can be produced by vehicles, gas tools, stoves and other appliances.
  • Solvents – Certain 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 how much exposure you might have, and wear all of your safety equipment.

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

Taking precautions is the trick to safeguarding your hearing. If you work in an industry including automotive, fire-fighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals. If your workplace supplies safety equipment such as protective masks, gloves, or garments, use them.

When you’re at home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions 100 percent. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for assistance if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Chemicals and noise can have a cumulative effect on your hearing, so if you are around both at the same time, take added precautions. If you can’t steer clear of chemicals or are taking medications, make sure you have regular hearing exams so you can try to get ahead of any problems. Hearing specialists are experienced in dealing with the various causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to avoid further damage.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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