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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 realize the dangers that commonplace chemicals present to their hearing. There is an greater exposure risk for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Your quality of life can be enhanced by realizing what these chemicals are and how to protect yourself.

Why Are Select Chemicals Harmful to Your Hearing?

Something that has a toxic effect on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. Certain chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals 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’re absorbed into the body, will go into the ear, affecting the sensitive nerves. The ensuing hearing loss could be temporary or long-term, and the effect is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, identified five kinds of chemicals that can be detrimental to your hearing:

  • Pharmaceuticals – Drugs including antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Speak with your primary physician and your hearing health specialist about any dangers posed by your medications.
  • Nitriles – Things like latex gloves, super glue, 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 damage your hearing.
  • Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be triggered by metals like mercury and lead which also have other negative health effects. These metals are commonly found in the furniture and metal fabrication industries.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which decreased the amount of oxygen in the air. Dangerous levels of these chemicals can be produced by vehicles, gas tools, stoves and other appliances.
  • Solvents – Certain industries like insulation and plastics use solvents such as carbon disulfide and styrene in manufacturing. Be 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.

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

The key 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 use every safety material your job supplies, including protective gloves, garments, and masks.

Be sure you follow all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you take them. When you are using any chemicals, if your not sure about what the label means, get help, and use proper ventilation. Noise and chemicals can have a cumulative effect on your hearing, so if you are around both at the same time, take additional precautions. Try to get ahead of any potential problems by having a routine hearing exam if you are on medications or if you can’t steer clear of chemicals. Hearing specialists are experienced in dealing with the various causes of hearing loss and can help you put together a plan 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.