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Wearing a mask can also protect your hearing

July 3, 2020 2 min read

Face masks can also help prevent hearing loss caused by chemicals and noise exposure. According to audiologist Thabo Rapœea, certain chemicals have harmful effects on hearing and balance.

“These are ototoxic chemicals and can cause hearing loss on their own which can be worsened when a person is exposed to both the chemicals and noise at the same time,” says Rapœea. Even if the noise and chemicals are at recommended exposure levels, Rapœea says the exposure to both can do more damage than a higher exposure to each alone. The hearing frequencies affected by chemical exposure are different than those affected by noise.

“You can be exposed at work or home,” he says. Ototoxic chemicals he shows can cause mild to severe hearing loss, or total hearing loss, depending on individuals and the levels of exposure. They can also cause ringing in the ears called tinnitus.

The chemicals he adds can also cause balance problems ranging from mild to total breakdown. Some signs of balance problems include headache, feeling of fullness in the ear, dizziness and being unable to walk. Rapœea says exposure to harmful chemicals may occur through inhalation, ingestion or skin absorption. He notes that health effects caused by ototoxic chemicals vary based on exposure frequency, intensity, workplace exposure to other hazards and individual factors such as age. He says anything that can be harmful to one’s ears must also be harmful to the rest of the body, adding that by protecting the ears, one might be protecting their general heal.


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