Hearing Health Blog

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Many people are aware of the known causes of hearing loss but don’t comprehend the hazards that commonplace chemicals pose to their hearing. While there are a number of groups of people in danger, those in industries such as textiles, petroleum, automotive, plastics, and metal fabrication have increased exposure. Recognizing what these hazardous chemicals are and what measures you should take might help maintain your quality of life.

Select Chemicals Are Detrimental to Your Hearing. Why?

The term “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 home or in the workplace, people can come in contact with ototoxic chemicals. These chemicals can be absorbed by ingestion, inhalation, or through the skin. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can travel to the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The ensuing hearing loss could be temporary or permanent, and the effect is worse when noise exposure is also at high levels.

Five kinds of chemicals that can be harmful to your hearing have been defined by OSHA or the Occupation Safety and Health Administration:

  • Pharmaceuticals – Hearing can be damaged by drugs like diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics. Any questions about medication that you may be taking should be discussed with your doctor and your hearing care specialist.
  • Solvents – Specific industries including insulation and plastics use solvents such as carbon disulfide and styrene in manufacturing. If you work in these industries, speak with your workplace safety officer about the level of exposure you might have, and use all of your safety equipment.
  • Nitriles – Things like latex gloves, super glue, and rubber automotive seals contain nitriles such as acrylonitrile and 3-Butenenitrile. Even though your hearing can be damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the advantage of repelling water.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals such as mercury and lead have other harmful effects on the body, but they can also trigger hearing loss. These metals are typically found in the furniture and metal fabrication industries.
  • Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants reduce the amount of oxygen in the air, and include things like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Unsafe levels of these chemicals can be produced by vehicles, gas tools, stoves and other appliances.

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

The trick to protecting your hearing from exposure to chemicals is to take precautions. Ask your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals if you work in the construction, plastics, pesticide spraying, automotive, or fire-fighting fields. If your workplace supplies safety equipment including protective masks, gloves, or garments, use them.

When you’re at home, read all safety labels on products and follow the instructions 100 percent. When you are using any chemicals, if your not sure about what the label means, get help, and use proper 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. Try to get ahead of any potential problems by having a routine hearing test if you are on medications or if you can’t steer clear of chemicals. The numerous causes of hearing loss are well known to hearing specialists so make an appointment for a hearing test in order to avoid further damage.

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