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Peripheral and Central Auditory Dysfunction Induced by Occupational Exposure to Organic Solvents

Fuente, Adrian PhD; Slade, Martin D. MPH; Taylor, Tanisha MD, MPH; Morata, Thais C. PhD; Keith, Robert W. PhD; Sparer, Judy MS, CIH; Rabinowitz, Peter M. MD, MPH

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: October 2009 - Volume 51 - Issue 10 - p 1202-1211
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e3181bae17c
Original Articles

Objective: To examine the effects of solvent exposure on hearing function, through an audiological test battery, in a population not occupationally exposed to high levels of noise.

Methods: One hundred ten workers from a coating factory were studied. Jobs at the factory were divided into three different levels of solvent exposure. Hearing status was assessed with a test battery including pure-tone hearing thresholds (0.5–8 kHz), high-frequency hearing thresholds (12 and 16 kHz), and dichotic listening measured through dichotic digits test. Multiple linear regression models were created to explore possible association between solvent exposure and each of the hearing outcomes.

Results: Significant associations between solvent exposure and the three hearing outcomes were found. Covariates such as age, gender, race, and ethnicity were also significantly associated with the studied hearing outcomes.

Conclusions: Occupational exposure to solvents may induce both peripheral and central auditory dysfunction. The dichotic digits test seems as a sensible tool to detect central auditory dysfunction associated with solvent exposure. Hearing loss prevention programs may use this tool to monitor hearing in solvent-exposed workers.

From the Escuela de Fonoaudiologia [School of Speech and Hearing Sciences] (Dr Fuente), Medical Faculty, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile; Occupational and Environmental Medicine Program (Mr Slade, Dr Taylor, Ms Sparer, and Dr Rabinowitz), Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn; Division of Applied Research and Technology (Dr Morata), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; and Division of Audiology (Dr Keith), University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio.

The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Address correspondence to: Adrian Fuente, PhD, Escuela de Fonoaudiologia, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Chile, Independencia 1027, Santiago, Chile; E-mail:

©2009The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine