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

There are many commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people recognize the dangers that certain chemicals pose 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 measures you should take could help preserve your quality of life.

Why Are Some Chemicals Hazardous to Your Hearing?

The term “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic impact on either the ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears that help us hear. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. They could absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can impact the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The ensuing hearing loss could be temporary or long-term, and the impact is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by drugs like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Talk to your regular physician and your hearing health specialist about any risks presented by your medications.
  • Nitriles – Things like latex gloves, super glue, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be advantageous because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
  • Solvents – Certain industries including insulation and plastics use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. Make sure that if you work in one of these industries, you wear all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer about how much you are exposed.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which lowered the amount of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances may put out dangerous levels of these chemicals.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals such as lead and mercury have other negative effects on the body, but they can also lead to hearing loss. These metals are typically found in the furniture and metal fabrication industries.

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

The solution to protecting your hearing from chemical exposure is to take precautions. Ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals if you work in the pesticide spraying, construction, plastics, automotive, or fire-fighting industries. Make certain you make use of every safety material your job offers, including protective garment, gloves, and masks.

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 impact on your hearing, so if you are around both at the same time, take extra precautions. If you can’t stay away from chemicals or are taking medications, be certain you have routine hearing tests so you can try to get ahead of any problems. The various causes of hearing loss are well understood by hearing specialists so schedule an appointment for a hearing exam in order 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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