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

Many people are informed about the known causes of hearing loss but don’t recognize the risks that everyday chemicals pose to their hearing. While there are a number of groups of people in danger, those in industries like textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have greater exposure. Knowing what these harmful chemicals are and what measures you should take might help preserve your quality of life.

Why Are Select 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, people can be exposed to ototoxic chemicals. These chemicals can be absorbed by inhalation, through the skin, or by ingestion. These chemicals, once they get into the body, will go into the ear, affecting the delicate nerves. The effect is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, leading to temporary or long-term loss of hearing.

Five types of chemicals that can be hazardous to your hearing have been identified by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by drugs like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Talk to your regular doctor and your hearing health specialist about any risks presented by your medications.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles including 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.
  • Solvents – Certain industries like insulation and plastics use solvents such as carbon disulfide and styrene in manufacturing. If you work in these fields, talk to your workplace safety officer about how much exposure you might have, and wear all of your safety equipment.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke contain asphyxiants which decrease the amount of oxygen in the air. Vehicles, gas tools, stoves, and other appliances could produce dangerous levels of these chemicals.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals such as mercury and lead have other adverse effects on the body, but they can also lead to hearing loss. These metals are typically found in the furniture and metal fabrication industries.

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

Taking precautions is the key to safeguarding your hearing. Consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals if you work in the construction, plastics, pesticide spraying, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. Be sure you use every safety material your job supplies, like protective gloves, garments, and masks.

Be certain you follow all of the instructions on the labels of your medications before you use them. Use correct ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for help if you can’t decipher any of the labels. Chemicals and noise can have a cumulative impact on your hearing, so if you are around both simultaneously, take additional precautions. If you can’t avoid chemicals or are taking medications, be certain you have routine hearing tests so you can try to get ahead of any problems. Hearing specialists have experience with the various causes of hearing loss and can help you figure out 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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