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

There are lots of commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but not too many people recognize the dangers that certain chemicals pose to their hearing. There is an increased exposure hazard for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Recognizing what these hazardous chemicals are and what measures you should take could help protect your quality of life.

Certain Chemicals Are Detrimental to Your Hearing. Why?

Something that has a toxic effect on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. At work or at home, people can come in contact with ototoxic chemicals. They might absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can affect the sensitive nerves and other parts of the ear. The effect is even worse when it comes with high levels of noise exposure, causing temporary or permanent loss of hearing.

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics. Speak with your primary doctor and your hearing health specialist about any risks presented by your medications.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide contain asphyxiants which decrease the level of oxygen in the air. Dangerous levels of these chemicals can be produced by vehicles, gas tools, stoves and other appliances.
  • Solvents – Solvents, including carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in some industries like insulation and plastics. If you work in these fields, talk to your workplace safety officer about how much exposure you might have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles like 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in making products such as automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be practical because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals like mercury and lead have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also lead to hearing loss. These metals are commonly found in the furniture and metal fabrication industries.

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

The trick to protecting your hearing from chemical exposure is to take precautions. Consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals if you work in the construction, plastics, pesticide spraying, automotive, or fire-fighting industries. Make certain you use every safety material your job provides, such as protective gloves, garments, and masks.

Be certain you adhere to all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you use them. When you are using any chemicals, if you don’t understand the label, get help, and use correct ventilation. Take additional precautions if you are around noise at the same time as chemicals because the two can have a cumulative impact on your hearing. Try to nip any potential problem in the bud by having a routine hearing test if you are on medications or if you can’t steer clear of chemicals. Hearing specialists have experience with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan 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.