OBJECTIVE: To evaluate auditory function in a group of workers exposed to organic solvent mixture at a paint factory.
DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.
STUDY SAMPLE: One hundred and sixty-one workers were studied, 77 exposed to solvents and 84 unexposed. Fourteen solvents were measured, including toluene, xylene, and n-hexane. Pure-tone audiometry and brainstem auditory-evoked potentials (BAEP) were performed. Industrial noise was < 85 dBA and exposure levels to organic solvents were low.
RESULTS: The exposed group showed a hearing impairment in both ears compared with the unexposed workers. Multiple linear regression models adjusted by age, chronic pathologies, and environmental noise for frequency means between 125 and 8000 Hz produced the following results: for the left ear, R(2) = 33.3%, exposed vs. unexposed β = 4.1 (p < 0.001); and for the right ear, R(2) = 38%, exposed vs. unexposed β = 4.8 (p < 0.001). Adjusted for age and chronic pathologies, waves III and V, and interpeak interval latencies were increased (p < 0.05) in both ears in the exposed group.
CONCLUSIONS: Although solvent mixture concentrations and noise levels were low, our results demonstrate that there may be a concurrent ototoxicity and neurotoxicity condition and emphasize the importance of including BAEP analysis for comprehensive assessments. Future studies that include otoacoustic emissions assessments to monitor cochlear function and central auditory processing tests are imperative.