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

There are lots of commonly known causes of hearing loss, but few people realize the dangers that some chemicals pose to their hearing. While there are numerous groups of people at risk, those in industries such as 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 be protected.

Why Are Certain Chemicals Detrimental to Your Hearing?

Something that has a toxic effect on the nerves of the ears or the ears themselves is known as ototoxic. At work or at home, individuals can be exposed to ototoxic chemicals. They could absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. Once these chemicals are in the body, they can impact the sensitive nerves and other portions of the ear. The resultant hearing loss may 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, defined five kinds of chemicals that can be detrimental to your hearing:

  • Pharmaceuticals – Drugs including diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics can cause damage to your hearing. Any questions about medication that you might be taking should be reviewed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
  • Metals and Compounds – Hearing loss can be caused by metals like mercury and lead which also have other harmful health effects. These metals are frequently found in the furniture and metal fabrication industries.
  • Solvents – Some industries such as plastics and insulation use solvents such as carbon disulfide and styrene in manufacturing. Be certain that if you work in one of these industries, you use all of your safety equipment and speak with your workplace safety officer about your level of exposure.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide contain asphyxiants which lowered the amount of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, stoves, gas tools, and other appliances could produce dangerous levels of these chemicals.
  • 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 advantage of repelling water.

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

The trick to safeguarding your hearing from chemical exposure is to take precautions. Consult your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the pesticide spraying, construction, plastics, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. Make certain you make use of every safety material your job provides, including protective garment, gloves, and masks.

When you are home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to the instructions 100 percent. Use correct ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for assistance if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Chemicals and noise can have a cumulative effect on your hearing, so if you are around both simultaneously, take additional precautions. If you can’t steer clear of chemicals or are taking medications, make sure you have routine hearing exams 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 avoid 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.