Hearing Health Blog

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

There are many commonly known causes of hearing loss, but few people recognize the hazards that certain chemicals present 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 might help preserve your quality of life.

Why Are Some Chemicals Hazardous to Your Hearing?

Something that has a toxic effect on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. Some chemicals are ototoxic, and individuals can be exposed to these chemicals at home and in the workplace. They might absorb these chemicals through the skin, ingest, or inhale them. These chemicals, once they get into the body, will go into the ear, affecting the delicate nerves. The ensuing hearing loss could 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 harmful to your hearing have been identified by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:

  • Pharmaceuticals – Drugs such as diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics can damage hearing. Any worries about medication that you may be taking should be talked over with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles such as 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used to make products such as super glue, automotive rubber and seals, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be advantageous because they help repel water, but exposure can damage your hearing.
  • Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances could put out dangerous levels of these chemicals.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals such as mercury and lead have other negative effects on the body, but they can also cause hearing loss. These metals are frequently found in the metal fabrication and furniture industries.
  • Solvents – Solvents, including carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in some industries like insulation and plastics. If you work in these industries, talk to your workplace safety officer about how much exposure you might have, and wear all of your safety equipment.

If You Are Subjected to These Ototoxic Chemicals, What Can You do?

Taking precautions is the trick to protecting your hearing. Consult your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the construction, plastics, pesticide spraying, automotive, or fire-fighting industries. If your workplace offers safety equipment like protective garments, masks, or gloves, use them.

Make sure 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. Noise and chemicals can have a cumulative effect on your hearing, so if you are around both simultaneously, take extra precautions. 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. The various causes of hearing loss are well understood by hearing specialists so schedule an appointment for a hearing test in order 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.
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