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|In the United States, hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical health condition among adults. When thinking about what causes hearing loss, many people typically think of loud noise. But did you know that chemicals can also cause hearing loss?
Exposure to certain chemicals can cause damage to different parts of the ear. This can result in hearing loss or increase a person’s sensitivity to the harmful effects of noise. These chemicals are called ototoxicants or ototoxic chemicals. Workers can be exposed to ototoxic chemicals by breathing them in. Workers can also consume food or drinks that have been contaminated or absorb a chemical through the skin. Once exposed, these chemicals can travel through the bloodstream. They can injure the inner ear and damage the nerves that transmit information to the brain.
Chemicals that can damage your hearing are common. A few examples include solvents, degreasers, fuels, mercury, lead, tobacco smoke, pesticides, and antineoplastic (cancer-treating) drugs. In some workplaces, workers may be exposed to both loud noise and ototoxic chemicals. This can cause more hearing damage than either noise or chemical exposure alone. You can find out if a certain chemical may cause hearing loss or other hearing damage. Go to the CDC Toxicology Profile webpage, find the chemical of interest, and read the section under “Health Effects” in the report
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