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

There are many commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but few people recognize the dangers that some chemicals present to their hearing. While there are numerous groups of people in danger, those in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. Your quality of life can be enhanced by knowing what these chemicals are and how to protect yourself.

Why Are Select Chemicals Detrimental to Your Hearing?

Something that has a toxic impact 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 work or at home. They could absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. These chemicals, once they’re absorbed into the body, will go into the ear, affecting the sensitive nerves. The resultant hearing loss might be temporary or permanent, and the effect is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Drugs such as antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can cause damage to your hearing. Any questions about medication that you may be taking should be reviewed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles like 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used to make products such as super glue, automotive rubber and seals, and latex gloves. Though your hearing can be damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the benefit of repelling water.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which lowered the amount of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances could produce unsafe levels of these chemicals.
  • Solvents – Certain industries including plastics and insulation use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. If you work in these industries, speak with your workplace safety officer about how much exposure you may have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
  • Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be triggered by metals like mercury and lead which also have other adverse health effects. People in the fabricated metal or furniture industries may be exposed to these metals frequently.

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

The key to protecting your hearing from chemical exposure is to take precautions. If you work in a sector including plastics, automotive, fire-fighting, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals. Be sure you use every safety material your job supplies, such as protective gloves, garments, and masks.

When you are home, read all safety labels on products and follow the instructions to the letter. Use proper ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for help if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Noise and chemicals can have a cumulative effect on your hearing, so if you are around both at the same time, take added precautions. If you can’t avoid chemicals or are taking medications, be certain you have routine hearing exams so you can try to get ahead of any problems. Hearing specialists have experience with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you come up with a plan to stop 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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