Association of organic solvents and occupational noise on hearing loss and tinnitus among adults in the U.S., 1999–2004

  • Amanda M. StaudtEmail author
  • Kristina W. Whitworth
  • Lung-Chang Chien
  • Lawrence W. Whitehead
  • David Gimeno Ruiz de Porras
Original Article



Exposure to organic solvents and noise may be causal agents in the development of hearing loss and tinnitus. The objectives of the present study were to examine the association of organic solvents with hearing loss and tinnitus and to assess the interaction of organic solvent and occupational noise exposure on hearing loss and tinnitus.


A secondary data analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and Occupational Information Network (O*NET) among a study population ranging from 1085 to 2471 study participants from 1999 to 2004. Multiple multivariate logistic regression models were used to assess the associations of individual organic solvent exposures as measured by blood biomarkers (1,4-dichlorobenzene, benzene, ethylbenzene, styrene, toluene, o-xylene, and m-/p-xylene) with self-reported hearing loss, audiometrically assessed hearing loss, and self-reported tinnitus. Models were adjusted for age, gender, race/ethnicity, diabetes, non-occupational noise exposure, smoking, and income. Organic solvents found to be statistically significantly associated with the outcome after adjusting for covariates were tested for interaction with occupational noise exposure.


Solvent exposure was not statistically significantly associated with self-reported tinnitus. Benzene (OR 1.43, 95% CI 1.15–1.78), ethylbenzene (OR 1.24, 95% CI 1.02–1.50), and toluene (OR 1.27, 95% CI 1.06–1.52) concentrations were statistically significantly associated with increased adjusted odds of high-frequency hearing loss. No statistically significant interaction was observed between these solvents and occupational noise on high-frequency hearing loss.


We found no evidence of an association between organic solvents and tinnitus; however, there was evidence of an association between organic solvent exposure and prevalence of high-frequency hearing loss.


Blood biomarkers Hearing loss NHANES Occupational noise Organic solvents Tinnitus 



AMS, KWW, LWW and DG were funded by the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (SWCOEH), a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Education and Research Center at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health, and awardee of Grant no. 5T42OH008421 from the (NIOSH)/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests, and all authors certify that their freedom to design, conduct, interpret, and publish this research is not compromised by any controlling sponsor.

Ethical approval

The study was approved by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects.

Informed consent

For this type of study using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) Public-Use Data files, consent is not required.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Systems of Care for Complex Patients (SCCP) Task AreaUS Army Institute of Surgical ResearchSan AntonioUSA
  2. 2.Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences, School of Public Health in San AntonioThe University of Texas Health Science Center at HoustonSan AntonioUSA
  3. 3.Epidemiology and Biostatistics Program, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, School of Community Health SciencesUniversity of NevadaLas VegasUSA
  4. 4.Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences, School of Public HealthThe University of Texas Health Science Center at HoustonHoustonUSA
  5. 5.Center for Research in Occupational Health (CISAL)Universitat Pompeu FabraBarcelonaSpain
  6. 6.CIBER of Epidemiology and Public HealthBarcelonaSpain

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