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Many people are familiar with the common causes of hearing loss but don’t realize the dangers that commonplace chemicals present to their hearing. While there are several groups of people in danger, those in industries including textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. Recognizing what these dangerous chemicals are and what precautions you should take might help protect your quality of life.

Why Are Select Chemicals Harmful to Your Hearing?

The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic impact on either the ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears that assist our hearing. Specific chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. They could absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. These chemicals, once they’re absorbed into the body, will go into the ear, affecting the sensitive 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 kinds of chemicals that can be hazardous to your hearing have been identified by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics. Consult your primary physician and your hearing health specialist about any risks presented by your medications.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals such as 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 could be exposed to these metals regularly.
  • Solvents – Some industries such as plastics and insulation use solvents such as carbon disulfide and styrene in manufacturing. Make 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 how much you are exposed.
  • Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Dangerous levels of these chemicals can be produced by gas tools, vehicles, stoves and other appliances.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles like 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used to make products such as automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Although your hearing can be harmed by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the advantage of repelling water.

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

The solution to safeguarding your hearing from exposure to chemicals is to take precautions. Consult your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the pesticide spraying, construction, plastics, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. Make sure you make use of every safety material your job offers, such as protective garment, gloves, and masks.

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