Hearing Services of Nashville

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

There are numerous commonly known causes of hearing loss, but few 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 knowing what these chemicals are and how to be protected.

Why Are Certain Chemicals Hazardous to Your Hearing?

The word “ototoxic” means that something has a toxic effect on either the ears themselves or the nerves inside of the ears which assist our hearing. At work or at home, individuals can be exposed to ototoxic chemicals. They could absorb these chemicals through the skin, ingest, or inhale them. Once these chemicals get into the body, they can travel to the delicate nerves and other parts of the ear. The impact is even worse with high levels of noise exposure, leading to temporary or long-term loss of hearing.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, discovered five kinds of chemicals that can be harmful to your hearing:

  • Pharmaceuticals – Drugs such as diuretics, antibiotics, and analgesics can cause damage to your hearing. Speak with your regular doctor and your hearing health specialist about any dangers posed by your medications.
  • Solvents – Certain industries like plastics and insulation use solvents such as styrene and carbon disulfide in manufacturing. If you work in these industries, speak with your workplace safety officer about how much exposure you may have, and use all of your safety equipment.
  • Nitriles – Nitriles such as 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile are used in making products such as automotive rubber and seals, super glue, and latex gloves. Even though your hearing can be damaged by these nitrile based chemicals, they have the advantage of repelling water.
  • Asphyxiants – Asphyxiants decrease 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.
  • Metals and Compounds – Metals including lead and mercury have other adverse effects on the body, but they can also lead to hearing loss. These metals are frequently found in the furniture and metal fabrication industries.

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

Taking precautions is the trick to safeguarding your hearing. If you work in a sector including automotive, fire-fighting, plastics, pesticide spraying, or construction, consult your employer about levels of exposure to these chemicals. Be sure you utilize every safety material your job provides, including protective gloves, garments, and masks.

When you are home, read all safety labels on products and adhere to 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 decipher any of the labels. Take extra 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 regular hearing exam if you are on medications or if you can’t avoid chemicals. The various 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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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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