Solvents worsen hearing ability

Solvents worsen hearing ability

Noise is not the only threat to hearing in a person's working life. A report shows that exposure to the solvent styrene can lead to hearing loss. Workers in the plastic industry, who work with styrene in noisy surroundings have a higher risk of suffering hearing loss than people exposed only to excessive noise.

The report was written by the National Institute for Working Life in Sweden. The study involved 300 people from 14 different work places. Approximately 150 worked in the plastic industry.

The results were conclusive. The people who had worked with styrene had significantly poorer hearing than those who had not, said Ann-Christin Johnson from the Swedish Institute of Working Life.

According to the institute, the conclusions are consistent with studies from other European countries. Auris, a Swedish magazine for hearing-impaired people, has referred to a Danish survey from the 1980s which showed that hearing loss was 10 per cent more common among people who had worked with solvents for more than five years.

It is not exactly clear how styrene can damage hearing ability, but animal experiments have shown that organic solvents harm the minute haircells in the inner ear.

Scientists from six European countries have received financial support from the EU to undertake a three-year study on the subject.

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