The Silent Cause of Hearing Loss

The Silent Cause of Hearing Loss

Could Ototoxic Drugs Be Affecting Your Hearing Without Your Knowledge?

What Is Ototoxicity?

The definition of ototoxicity, in its simplest form, is ear poisoning (“oto” references the ear and toxicity references “poisoning”). Chemicals, drugs, and other agents that are known to cause hearing loss, balance disorders, or tinnitus are referred to as ototoxic. Damage to the auditory system can occur when the vestibulo-cochlear nerve, which sends balance and hearing information to the brain from the inner ear, is exposed to certain drugs or chemicals.

What Causes Ototoxicity?

Ototoxic drugs or agents can be ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. Today, there are more than 200 known ototoxic medications on the market today. These include medicines used to treat serious infections, cancer, and heart disease. Some common medications known to cause temporary damage to sensory cells in the inner ear are aspirin, quinine (to treat malaria), and loop diuretics (to treat specific hearing and kidney conditions). Organic solvents (a chemical class of compounds that are typically used in commercial industries) are the most commonly identified ototoxic chemicals. The list of chemical agents in the form of gases, paints, metals, and pesticides is impressive: High-priority ototoxins present immediate danger in certain elemental forms. Toluene, xylenes, styrenes, n-hexane, trichloroethylene, carbon monoxide, and alcohols are all considered high priority, and workers should avoid exposure to any and all relative products.

Pregnant women may be at risk of exposing their unborn child to substances harmful to the child’s hearing. During pregnancy, drugs such as Accutane, Dilantin, alcohol, and those used in chemotherapy can affect the fetus ototoxically. After birth, a child’s exposure to certain aminoglycoside antibiotics, diuretics, cisplatin, and other ototoxic agents may put them at risk for hearing loss.

Activities where chemicals are absorbed by the body while the ears are exposed to dangerous levels of noise may increase the risk of ototoxicity (think boat building, construction, firefighting, painting, and firing weapons). Other chemicals associated with hearing loss are benzene, carbon disulfide, carbon monoxide, ethylbenzene, hydrogen cyanide, lead, and mercury; some of these are found in organic solvents that are widely used for a variety of commercial and recreational projects. Many of the following are used in products that present simultaneous noise and chemical hazards:

  • Automotive and aviation fuels
  • Plastics
  • Paint thinners
  • Lacquers
  • Dyes
  • Detergents
  • Medicines
  • Perfumes
  • Fabric and paper coatings
  • Printing inks
  • Spray surface coatings
  • Insect repellents

What Can I Do to Protect Myself?

To protect yourself from both chemical-induced hearing loss (CIHL) and noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), or the combined effects from a mixture of the two, by:

  • Removing hazardous substances or noises from the workplace
  • Using less hazardous chemicals to perform duties
  • Initiating steps to minimize exposure through inhalation, ingestion, skin absorption, and sound
  • Adding ventilation and skin, respiratory, and hearing protection
  • Create a hearing-conservation program that considers and monitors the combined effects of exposure to solvents and noise

If you are prescribed drugs that are ototoxic, do not stop taking them. If your provider is monitoring your hearing status, he or she will be better able to advise you on the risks of the medication and provide appropriate management.

If you or a friend has expressed concern over spinning, nausea, headaches, or hearing loss, ototoxicity may be the cause. Our office provides comprehensive solutions that can help keep our community healthy and happy. Thank you for working with us to improve the quality of life in our local community!

The Warning Signs and Real-Life Impact of Hearing Loss

The Warning Signs and Real-Life Impact of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss symptoms aren’t associated only with your hearing. Be aware of the important and predictive signs of hearing loss — and how to help — with this guide.

How Hearing Loss Happens: Hearing loss can occur as a result of many different factors, including noise exposure, trauma, disease, aging, and ototoxicity. It can also be associated with many other concurrent health conditions, so early identification may be critically important to your overall health and well-being.

The sooner you’re aware that there’s a problem, the sooner you can treat it. Hearing is just as important as all the other senses; it gives us a vital connection to the world around us, keeps us safe, and helps us live and enjoy life fully.

Hearing loss is strongly associated with increased risk of dementia, anxiety, and depression, as well as poorer overall quality of life. It has been associated with diabetes, heart disease, and other serious health conditions. We’ve categorized each warning sign under three sections — physical, psychological, and social — to help you better understand the real-life impacts of hearing loss. Also, notice how each one of these categories affects the other.

Physical:

  • Fatigue
  • Vertigo
  • Headache
  • Stress
  • Eating and sleeping problems

Psychological:

  • Feelings of embarrassment, shame, guilt, and anger
  • Sadness or depression due to isolation
  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem

Social:

  • Increased social isolation
  • Problems communicating with a spouse, friends, and relatives
  • Problems interacting with co-workers at work
  • Difficulty concentrating

Children

Even though essential to social, emotional and cognitive development, hearing is often a sense that’s overlooked medically. Early identification and intervention for hearing loss in children is critically important and can lessen the impact of hearing deficits on a child’s educational, emotional, and language development, giving them the opportunity to reach their full potential socially and academically. Here are some of the warning signs of hearing loss in children.

Newborn/Infant:

A delay in your child’s development of age-appropriate communication skills is one of the biggest hallmarks of hearing loss.

  • Not startling at loud noises
  • Not recognizing a familiar voice
  • Not moving eyes in direction of sound
  • Not enjoying games of peek-a-boo
  • Not babbling
  • Not vocalizing excitement or displeasure
  • Around 1 year of age, has not spoken one or two words

Toddler:

As with newborns and infants, children’s communication skills can give clues to their hearing health.

  • Unable to point to two body parts when asked
  • Doesn’t enjoy being read to
  • Doesn’t understand action words like “run” or “sit”
  • Sits close to the television
  • Is unable to form short sentences like “I go”
  • Doesn’t ask “why” or “what” questions
  • Can’t answer “why” or “what” questions
  • Doesn’t use plurals or verbs

Awareness is key in helping to treat hearing loss. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of hearing loss, contact an audiologist. They will be able to assess the nature of the hearing loss, provide a diagnosis, and prescribe treatment if necessary. Look for a provider who takes into account your lifestyle and goals when recommending treatment.