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

Most people are familiar with the common causes of hearing loss but don’t recognize the risks that everyday chemicals present to their hearing. There is an greater exposure hazard for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Knowing what these harmful chemicals are and what precautions you should take could help maintain your quality of life.

Select Chemicals Are Harmful to Your Hearing. Why?

Something that has a toxic effect on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. Particular chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals at work or at home. These chemicals can be absorbed by ingestion, inhalation, or through the skin. These chemicals, once they get into the body, will travel into the ear, affecting the sensitive nerves. The resultant hearing loss could 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 hazardous to your hearing have been defined by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:

  • Pharmaceuticals – Drugs like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can cause damage to your hearing. Consult your regular physician and your hearing health specialist about any risks presented by your medications.
  • Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be caused by metals like mercury and lead which also have other harmful health effects. These metals are commonly found in the metal fabrication and furniture industries.
  • Solvents – Solvents, such as carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in certain industries like insulation and plastics. If you work in these industries, speak with your workplace safety officer about the level of exposure you may have, and use all of your safety equipment.
  • Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances might put out unsafe levels of these chemicals.
  • Nitriles – Things like super glue, latex gloves, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be practical because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.

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

The solution to protecting your hearing from exposure to chemicals is to take precautions. Ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals if you work in the construction, plastics, pesticide spraying, automotive, or fire-fighting industries. If your workplace provides 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 help if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Chemicals and noise can have a cumulative impact on your hearing, so if you are around both at the same time, take added precautions. If you can’t avoid chemicals or are taking medications, be certain you have regular hearing tests so you can try to get ahead of any problems. The numerous causes of hearing loss are well known to hearing specialists so set up an appointment for a hearing test in order to prevent 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.