5 Common Household Hearing Hazards

By Barry Keate
Barry Keate, has lived with tinnitus over 40 years and has published 150+ research articles on numerous aspects of tinnitus. He is an expert on the condition and a well-known advocate for those with tinnitus.

Common Household Hearing Hazards

(drobotdean/Freepik)

Everything we use seems to have a warning label, from appliances and cleaners to yard equipment and paint. It can be tempting to ignore the tags as more and more common household goods are added to the list. If we avoided every hazard, we would never get anything done.

However, being aware of the greatest offenders can help you take steps to preserve your hearing for decades to come.

Hazards And Prevention

  1. Yard Equipment: Lawnmowers, leaf blowers, weed eaters, propane torches (used to burn weeds out of the rock if you want to avoid using a weed killer), tillers, harvesters, balers, and more can cause hearing damage over time because the noise they generate is quite loud. These machines can help accomplish huge tasks with minimal effort and time, and we wouldn’t suggest pitching everything that makes your life easier. However, ear protection allows you to have convenience and hearing.
  2. Power Tools: In an age where every project has a YouTube video instructor, more and more people are trying DIY construction than ever before. Noisy hand-held saws, table saws, hammer drills, sanders, grinders, and air compressors can cause problems.

    Consider using all construction equipment outdoors when possible, as the sound is more damaging in an enclosed space. Sound waves that would usually dissipate in all directions bounce back toward you. It’s best to use ear protection during indoor or outdoor use.

  3. Medication: Some types of drugs are ototoxic, which means they damage sensory cells in the inner ear, where sound is translated into coded electrical impulses and sent to the brain. If these cells quit functioning, you end up with misfiring messages. You hear sounds that aren’t there, like a ringing in your ears. Or the nerves quit working and you have hearing loss.

    Ototoxic medications include some antibiotics, such as Carboplatin and Cisplatin (chemo drugs), large amounts of aspirin, large doses or extended use of Vicodin, etc. These medicines used in conjunction with other sound hazards increase the chances of damage. While discontinuing use may relieve symptoms, hearing loss can become permanent.

    Of special note to those with tinnitus is the potential for hearing loss or intensification of tinnitus symptoms related to benzodiazepines, including Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium. While these medications can help control tinnitus-related anxiety, taking them can lead to dependency. Patients attempting to reduce their dose or stop taking these medications may suffer worsening tinnitus and anxiety during the withdrawal period. Thus, they should only be taken properly as directed by a physician.

  4. Chemicals: Ototoxic chemicals abound in our homes and businesses, and these are the worst offenders.
      • Benzene – often found paints, plastics, cigarette smoke, and cleaning agents
      • Carbon Disulfide – a common ingredient in pesticides
      • Carbon monoxide – a byproduct of combustion in gasoline-powered tools (like lawn mowers and leaf blowers), cigarette smoke, and vehicles
      • Styrene – found in insulation and plastics
      • Trichloroethylene – a component of rug cleaners, spot remover, pesticides, paints, lubricants, and waxes
      • Toluene – a chemical used in adhesives, rubber, paints, lacquers, and spray paint
      • Xylene – an ingredient of paints, thinners, and varnishes

    These chemicals can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or enter through a cut or other access point like the eyes or mouth. The best defense is to use chemicals in a well-ventilated area with eye protection and gloves. If you start to get dizzy, lose your balance, or get a headache, it’s not ventilated enough. Leave the room immediately and get fresh air. Leave windows open and use a fan close to and facing the window to force toxic air out of the house.

    If you get toxic chemicals on you, call poison control and follow the emergency warnings on the back of the bottle. Each substance is unique. Some you can wash off. Others are strong acids or bases that need to be neutralized quickly using baking soda (to neutralize an acid) or vinegar (to neutralize a base.) If ingested, you may need to drink milk, induce vomiting, or not induce vomiting.

    Read the label before you use the product so you can act quickly if there’s accidental contact.

  5. Music: We all love music, but most of us listen to music too loud. We use earbuds and headsets that concentrate sound directly into our eardrums. We turn it up in our cars or houses to celebrate, motivate us to complete tedious tasks, keep us awake on long drives, or as therapy when we’re sad or angry.

    If you want to enjoy music ten, twenty, or thirty years from now, don’t go overboard on the volume, especially using headsets and earbuds.

Optimizing Ear Health

Preventing damage is only half the battle. The other half is increasing overall health and providing optimal regenerative conditions to combat minor damage along the way.

  • Stop smoking: Smoking causes blood vessels to constrict. Places with the smallest vessels see the most damage, including the tiny hair-like nerves in the inner ear.
  • Keep blood sugar under control. Insulin resistance and diabetes damage nerves and can cause tinnitus.
  • Exercise regularly to increase circulation.
  • Avoid vitamin deficiencies that affect your hearing. Take vitamin B12 and zinc for tinnitus symptoms. Other supplements for ringing in the ears include high-grade ginkgo biloba, which increases nerve conductivity and regeneration for tinnitus relief.
  • Manage stress levels as stress can cause or worsen tinnitus.

Take Care Now

White everyday hazards can damage hearing over time, taking a few basic precautions can limit the damage and maintain your hearing for decades to come.