Preventing Hearing Loss Caused by Chemical (Ototoxicity) and Noise Exposure

March 2018
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2018-124
cover page for publication 2018-124

Millions of workers are exposed to noise in the workplace every day and when uncontrolled, noise exposure may cause permanent hearing loss. Research demonstrates exposure to certain chemicals, called ototoxicants, may cause hearing loss or balance problems, regardless of noise exposure. Substances including certain pesticides, solvents, and pharmaceuticals that contain ototoxicants can negatively affect how the ear functions, causing hearing loss, and/or affect balance. The risk of hearing loss is increased when workers are exposed to these chemicals while working around elevated noise levels. This combination often results in hearing loss that can be temporary or permanent, depending on the level of noise, the dose of the chemical, and the duration of the exposure. This hearing impairment affects many occupations and industries, from machinists to firefighters.

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Page last reviewed: March 15, 2018