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Hearing Aids by Tricia Leagjeld - Redmond, OR

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Most people are familiar with the known causes of hearing loss but don’t realize the hazards that commonplace chemicals pose to their hearing. While there are a number of groups of people in danger, those in industries like textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Your quality of life can be improved by realizing what these chemicals are and how to protect yourself.

Why Are Select Chemicals Harmful to Your Hearing?

Something that has a toxic impact on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. At home or in the workplace, people can come in contact with ototoxic chemicals. These chemicals can be absorbed by inhalation, through the skin, or by ingestion. These chemicals, once they get into the body, will go into the ear, impacting the delicate nerves. The effect is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, leading to temporary or permanent loss of hearing.

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Speak with your regular doctor and your hearing health specialist about any hazards posed by your medications.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles like 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used to make products such as super glue, automotive rubber and seals, and latex gloves. Although your hearing can be damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the advantage of repelling water.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which lowered the level of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances might produce unsafe levels of these chemicals.
  • Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be triggered by metals like lead and mercury which also have other adverse health effects. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries may be exposed to these metals frequently.
  • Solvents – Solvents, such as styrene and carbon disulfide, are used in certain industries like insulation and plastics. Be certain that if you work in one of these industries, you wear all of your safety equipment and consult your workplace safety officer about how much you are exposed.

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

Taking precautions is the trick to protecting your hearing. If you work in a sector including plastics, automotive, fire-fighting, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Make certain you make use of every safety material your job supplies, including protective garment, gloves, and masks.

When you are home, read all safety labels on products and follow the instructions 100 percent. Use correct ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for help if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Take extra precautions if you are around noise at the same time as chemicals because the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. Try to nip any potential problem in the bud by having a regular hearing exam if you are on medications or if you can’t avoid chemicals. The various causes of hearing loss are well known to hearing specialists so set up an appointment for a hearing test in order to stop further damage.

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