Objective: Determine the effect of lead, cadmium, arsenic, toluene, and xylene exposure on hearing compared to noise exposures alone.
Methods: Personnel at a shipyard (n = 1266) were divided into four exposure groups based on concentrations: low metals/low solvents/high noise (reference group), high metals/high solvents/low noise, high metals/low solvents/high noise, and high metals/high solvents/high noise. Hearing changes occurring from the years 2004-2015 were analyzed.
Results: Hearing changes were significantly worse at 1000 Hz (p = .007), averaged across 2000-4000 Hz (p = .014), and averaged across 500-6000 Hz (p = .014) for the high metals/high solvent/high noise group compared to the low metals/low solvents/high noise only reference group.
Conclusions: Simultaneous exposures classified as high for metals/solvents/noise appear to damage hearing more than exposure to noise alone. Hearing conservation programs should take into consideration combined exposures to metals, solvents, and noise, not simply exposure to noise.
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