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

Most people are informed about the common causes of hearing loss but don’t comprehend 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. Realizing what these hazardous chemicals are and what precautions you should take might help maintain your quality of life.

Some Chemicals Are Hazardous to Your Hearing. Why?

The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic impact on either the ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears that assist our hearing. At home or in the workplace, individuals can come in contact with ototoxic chemicals. They could absorb these chemicals through the skin, ingest, or inhale them. These chemicals, once they get into the body, will travel into the ear, impacting the delicate nerves. The ensuing 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, recognized five types of chemicals that can be harmful to your hearing:

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by medications like antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics. Any worries about medication that you might be taking should be reviewed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
  • Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants lower the amount of oxygen in the air, and consist of things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances might produce harmful levels of these chemicals.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals including mercury and lead have other adverse effects on the body, but they can also cause hearing loss. People in the metal fabrication or furniture industries could be exposed to these metals regularly.
  • Nitriles – Things like latex gloves, super glue, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles like acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Though your hearing can be harmed by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the benefit of repelling water.
  • Solvents – Solvents, such as styrene and carbon disulfide, are used in certain industries like insulation and plastics. If you work in these industries, talk to your workplace safety officer about how much exposure you may have, and wear all of your safety equipment.

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

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

Be sure you follow all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you take them. When you are using any chemicals, if you don’t understand the label, ask for help, and use proper ventilation. Take extra precautions if you are exposed to noise at the same time as chemicals as the two can have a cumulative effect on your hearing. If you can’t avoid chemicals or are on medications, make sure you have regular hearing exams so you can try to nip any problems in the bud. Hearing specialists are experienced in dealing with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you put together 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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