Chemical-Induced Hearing Loss in Shipyard Workers

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The aim of this study was to determine the effect of lead, cadmium, arsenic, toluene, and xylene exposure on hearing compared with noise exposures alone.


Personnel at a shipyard (n = 1266) were divided into four exposure groups on the basis of 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 to 2015 were analyzed.


Hearing changes were significantly worse at 1000 Hz (P = 0.007), averaged across 2000 to 4000 Hz (P = 0.014), and averaged across 500 to 6000 Hz (P = 0.014) for the high metals/high solvent/high noise group compared with the low metals/low solvents/high noise only reference group.


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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