These Chemicals Can Damage Your Hearing


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

Many people are informed about the common causes of hearing loss but don’t realize the dangers that everyday chemicals pose to their hearing. There is an increased exposure risk for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Your quality of life can be enhanced by knowing what these chemicals are and how to protect yourself.

Why Are Select Chemicals Harmful to Your Hearing?

The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic impact on either the ears themselves or the nerves in the ears that assist our hearing. Particular chemicals are ototoxic, and people can be exposed to these chemicals at work or at home. They might absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can affect the delicate nerves and other portions of the ear. The impact is even worse when it comes with high levels of noise exposure, causing temporary or permanent hearing loss.

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Any concerns about medication that you may be taking should be talked over with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
  • Solvents – Solvents, such as styrene and carbon disulfide, are used in some industries like plastics and insulation. Be sure that if you work in one of these industries, you use all of your safety equipment and consult your workplace safety officer about how much you are exposed.
  • Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants decrease the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances might produce harmful levels of these chemicals.
  • Nitriles – Things like latex gloves, super glue, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles including acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Nitrile-based products can be beneficial because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals including lead and mercury have other negative effects on the body, but they can also lead to hearing loss. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries could be exposed to these metals regularly.

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

The trick to protecting your hearing from exposure to chemicals is to take precautions. If you work in an industry such as plastics, automotive, fire-fighting, pesticide spraying, or construction, ask your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals. If your workplace offers safety equipment such as protective masks, gloves, or garments, use them.

Be certain you follow 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, ask for help, and use correct ventilation. Take additional precautions if you are exposed to noise at the same time as chemicals as the two can have a cumulative impact on your hearing. If you can’t stay away from chemicals or are taking medications, make sure you have routine hearing tests so you can try to get ahead of any problems. The numerous causes of hearing loss are well understood by hearing specialists so set up an appointment for a hearing exam in order 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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