Hearing Health Blog

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There are many commonly known causes of hearing loss, but few people recognize the dangers that some chemicals pose to their hearing. While there are numerous groups of people in danger, those in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. Your quality of life can be improved by realizing what these chemicals are and how to be protected.

Certain Chemicals Are Hazardous to Your Hearing. Why?

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. Particular 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 get into the body, they can affect the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The resulting hearing loss may be temporary or long-term, and the impact 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 such as antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Speak with your regular physician and your hearing health specialist about any risks posed by your medications.
  • Solvents – Solvents, including carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in some industries like plastics and insulation. If you work in these industries, speak with your workplace safety officer about how much exposure you might have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which decrease the level of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances might produce dangerous levels of these chemicals.
  • Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be caused by metals like mercury and lead which also have other negative health effects. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries could get exposed to these metals regularly.
  • Nitriles – Things like super glue, latex gloves, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles such as acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be practical because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.

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

The trick to safeguarding your hearing from exposure to chemicals is to take precautions. Consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals if you work in the pesticide spraying, construction, plastics, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. Be certain you use every safety material your job supplies, including protective garment, gloves, and masks.

When you are home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions to the letter. Use correct ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for assistance if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Noise and chemicals can have a cumulative effect on your hearing, so if you are around both at the same time, take extra precautions. Try to get ahead of any potential problems by having a regular hearing test if you are on medications or if you can’t avoid chemicals. The numerous causes of hearing loss are well understood by hearing specialists so set up an appointment for a hearing exam in order to stop further damage.

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