Love music? You’ll hate this blog about hearing loss and chemical fumes

It would be just sad to be unable to hear favorite music.

It would be just sad to be unable to hear favorite music.

Think of your favorite tune. Can you hear it playing in your head?

Too much exposure to chemicals and inside your head may be the only place you clearly hear it.

Hearing loss and solvent exposure

Scientists have found relationships between the use of monomers such as styrene and solvents – toluene and xylene, for example –  and a range of disorders, such as attention disorders, reproduction problems, nerve damage and, in some cases, cancer.

Another potential hazard, hearing loss, rarely surfaces in occupational health and safety discussions.

Yet, both animal and human studies indicate that hearing loss can be caused by exposure to the chemicals noted above.

Ear anatomy and solvents

Identified in the anatomical image below as the inner ear, the spiral-shaped cochlea is considered the target organ of solvents.1

The cochlea is filled with fluid and contains nerves for hearing.

With other parts of the inner ear, it processes sound waves and transmits electrical signals to the brain.2

Basic ear anatomy.



Toxicity from solvents can happen due to accidental and/or deliberate inhalation of fumes, ingestion or absorption of solvents through the skin.3

Inside the cochlea, the blood-borne solvents and other chemicals, such as styrene, damage rows of tiny hairs that have specific functions, such as amplification, signal conversion, and sound detection.1,3

Duration of exposure plays a role in the magnitude of hearing loss.

Noisy at work?

Researchers say that solvents + noise are more damaging to the ears than either hazard is when experienced separately.1,3

What does hearing loss sound like? It may not be quiet.

Here’s a link to an online auditory test:

Oddly, in some situations, loss of hearing can sound like an increase in noise.

So don’t breathe fumes

One reason we like our customers to talk with our applications specialists is to make sure a particular product recommendation meets their needs.

Sentry Air's activated carbon filters can be added to the full product line, from smallest to largest air purifier.

Sentry Air’s carbon filters can be added to our full line of air purifiers.

All our air purifiers can be configured with activated carbon filtration, alone or with particle filters.

Carbon filtration is particularly effective at capturing chemical fumes via the process of adsorption.

As you can see on the Activated Carbon Adsorption Ratings chart on our website, activated carbon has excellent adsorptive ability when applied to styrene, toluene and xylene.

Activated carbon can also be treated to adsorb specific compounds, such as aldehydes, ammonia and acid gas.

Give us a call

If you’re concerned about hazardous fumes from chemical and solvents, please give us a call at 800.799.4609, email, visit our website or fill out the feedback form below.




1.Solvent-induced hearing loss: mechanisms and prevention strategy

2. Anatomy and physiology of the ear

3. Effects of industrial solvents on hearing and balance: a review;year=2006;volume=8;issue=32;spage=114;epage=133;aulast=Hodgkinson

Organic solvents and hearing loss: the challenge for audiology.