Hearing Health Blog

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There are numerous commonly recognized causes of hearing loss, but not too many people recognize the hazards that some chemicals present to their hearing. There is an greater exposure hazard for people who work in metal fabrication, automotive-plastics, petroleum, and textiles. Your quality of life can be improved by recognizing what these chemicals are and how to protect yourself.

Some Chemicals Are Harmful 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 which assist our hearing. At work or at home, people can be exposed to ototoxic chemicals. They may absorb these chemicals through the skin, inhale, or ingest them. These chemicals, once they’re absorbed into the body, will go into the ear, impacting the delicate nerves. The effect is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, causing temporary or permanent loss of hearing.

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

  • Pharmaceuticals – Drugs including antibiotics, diuretics, and analgesics can cause damage to your hearing. Speak with your primary doctor and your hearing health specialist about any risks posed by your medications.
  • 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 get exposed to these metals frequently.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles like 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in making products such as super glue, automotive rubber and seals, and latex gloves. Nitrile-based products can be beneficial because they help repel water, but exposure can harm your hearing.
  • Solvents – Solvents, such as carbon disulfide and styrene, are used in certain industries like plastics and insulation. If you work in these industries, speak with your workplace safety officer about the level of exposure you may have, and use all of your safety equipment.
  • Asphyxiants – Things like tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide contain asphyxiants which decrease the amount of oxygen in the air. Unsafe levels of these chemicals can be produced by gas tools, vehicles, stoves and other appliances.

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

Taking precautions is the key to protecting your hearing. Consult your employer about exposure levels to these chemicals if you work in the construction, plastics, pesticide spraying, automotive, or fire-fighting industries. Make sure 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 follow the instructions to the letter. Use correct ventilation, including opening windows, and staying away from any chemicals or asking for assistance if you can’t understand any of the labels. Noise and chemicals can have a cumulative impact on your hearing, so if you are around both simultaneously, take added precautions. Try to get ahead of any potential problems by having a routine hearing exam if you are on medications or if you can’t avoid chemicals. Hearing specialists have experience with the numerous causes of hearing loss and can help you figure out a plan to stop further damage.

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