Ototoxic Chemicals That Cause Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is typically linked with age or serious noise exposure, but other causes for the condition do exist. For example, certain substances can harm your hearing. These substances are ototoxic chemicals. According to research, ototoxic chemicals are substances which have the potential to harm the auditory system, resulting in hearing loss or other hearing problems. Ototoxic chemical exposure can occur by inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption. These substances can harm the delicate tissues of the inner ear, especially the hearing hair cells.

Read on to learn more about ototoxic chemicals that cause hearing loss.

Impact of Ototoxic Chemicals on Hearing

Your hearing can be significantly impacted by ototoxic chemicals, potentially leading to auditory issues and even hearing loss.

Here are some of the impacts of ototoxic chemicals on hearing:

  • Cochlear Damage: Ototoxic chemicals can damage the delicate structures of the inner ear, particularly the cochlea, where the cells responsible for hearing are located.
  • Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Ototoxic chemicals often cause sensorineural hearing loss, a type of permanent hearing impairment resulting from damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve.
  • High-Frequency Hearing Loss: High-frequency hearing loss is a common consequence of ototoxic chemicals, impacting the ability to hear sounds in the higher pitch range.
  • Tinnitus: Ototoxicity can contribute to tinnitus, a condition characterized by the perception of ringing, buzzing, or other sounds without an external source.

Common Chemicals That Are Responsible for Hearing Damage

Ototoxic substances are classified as neurotoxicants, cochleotoxicants, or vestibulotoxicants based on the area of the ear they affect, and they can enter the bloodstream and cause injury to the inner ear and the linked neuronal pathways.

Below is the ototoxic chemicals list that can cause hearing loss:

  • Mercury compounds
  • Aminoglycosidic antibiotics like streptomycin and gentamycin
  • Loop diuretics like furosemide, ethacrynic acid, etc.
  • Certain analgesics and antipyretics like salicylates, quinine, chloroquine, etc.
  • Specific antineoplastic agents like cisplatin, carboplatin, bleomycin, etc.
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Hydrogen cyanide
  • Germanium dioxide
  • Organic tin compounds
  • Lead

Industries and Professions That Are More at Risk for Ototoxic Chemicals Exposure

Certain industries and professions involve a higher risk of exposure to ototoxic chemicals. Here are some industries and occupations that are more at risk for ototoxic chemical exposure:


  • Manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Utilities
  • Construction
  • Agriculture


  • Printing
  • Painting
  • Firefighter
  • Weapons firing

Hearing Prevention Tips from Ototoxic Chemicals

To prevent ototoxic chemical hearing damage, you need a mix of occupational safety measures, personal protective behavior, and frequent monitoring of hearing health. Here are some hearing loss prevention tips:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): You must use appropriate PPE, including ear protection (such as earmuffs or earplugs) to reduce exposure to loud noises and chemical-resistant gloves to minimize skin contact with ototoxic substances.
  • Safety Training: Employers need to provide workers with comprehensive safety training on the potential hazards of ototoxic chemicals.
  • Ventilation Systems: Employers should ensure proper ventilation in workplaces where ototoxic chemicals are used. Adequate ventilation helps disperse airborne chemicals, reducing the risk of inhalation.
  • Hygiene Practices: Employers must promote good hygiene practices, including thorough handwashing, to minimize skin contact with ototoxic substances. Workers need to avoid touching their faces and mouths while working.
  • Regular Audiometric Testing: Implement regular audiometric testing for workers exposed to ototoxic substances. This helps in the early detection of changes in hearing function.
  • Control Noise Levels: Control and reduce noise levels in the workplace through soundproofing measures, barriers, and the use of quieter machinery to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.
  • Regular Health Check-ups: Encourage workers to get regular health check-ups, including hearing health assessments, to monitor for any early signs of damage.

Get Full Control of Your Hearing Health with Hoffmann Audiology!

Are you suffering from hearing loss caused by ototoxic chemicals? If so, contact our audiologist at Hoffmann Audiology in Irvine, CA, immediately. Our expert audiologist, Dr. Chris Lin Hoffmann provides you with the best hearing test and treatment. For more information, contact our team or request an appointment today!


Content Source: CDC


Chris Lin Hoffmann

Dr. Chris Hoffmann is an audiologist who has been involved in hearing sciences for over 20 years. Her passion for helping people with their hearing led her to establish Hoffmann Audiology hearing clinic. Dr. Hoffmann has more than 14 years of clinical knowledge in hearing testing, hearing aid fittings, and aural rehabilitation.

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