Workplace chemicals and noise can harm hearing

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SCIENTISTS believe that excessive noise at work combined with industrial chemicals can produce brain damage, which affects hearing. Their work is the first experiment to show how a chemical and an environmental factor can interact, writes Celia Hall.

If the early findings from the research are confirmed it could alter the way that industrial safety is assessed and reduce risks of neurotoxic damage.

Dr David Ray, of the Medical Research Council's toxicology unit at Carshalton, Surrey, used different noise levels and dinitrobenzene (DNB), a chemical widely used in the dye and explosives industries, in experiments with rats.

He found that brain lesions in the rats resulting from exposure to DNB increased or decreased in relation to exposure to different levels of noise.

The research suggests that a high degree of auditory stimulation may make the brain more sensitive to chemical damage.