Hearing Health Blog

Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

Sometimes it can be easy to recognize hazards to your ears: a roaring jet engine or loud machinery. easy to persuade people to protect their ears when they recognize that they will be around loud noises. But what if there was an organic substance that was just as bad for your ears as too much noise? After all, just because something is organic, doesn’t that necessarily mean it’s healthy for you? How could something that’s organic be just as bad for your ears as loud noise?

You May Not Want to Eat This Organic Compound

To clarify, these organic compounds are not something you can pick up at the produce section of your supermarket nor would you want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, chemicals called organic solvents have a good possibility of injuring your hearing even with very little exposure. To be certain, the sort of organic label you see on fruit in the supermarket is completely different. In fact, marketers utilize the positive connections we have with the word “organic” to sell us products with the implication it’s actually good for you (or at least not bad for you). When food is classified as organic, it means that certain growing methods are employed to keep food from having artificial contaminants. When we talk about organic solvents, the word organic is chemistry-related. In the discipline of chemistry, the term organic refers to any compounds and chemicals that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can create a large number of molecules and consequently practical chemicals. But that doesn’t guarantee they’re not potentially harmful. Each year, millions of workers are exposed to the dangers of hearing loss by working with organic solvents.

Where do You Come Across Organic Solvents?

Organic solvents are found in some of the following products:

  • Varnishes and paints
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Degreasing agents
  • Glues and adhesives

You get it. So, here’s the question, will your hearing be harmed by painting or even cleaning?

Organic Solvents And The Hazards Related to Them

Based on the most recent research available, the dangers related to organic solvents generally increase the more you’re exposed to them. This means that you’ll most likely be fine while you clean your kitchen. It’s the industrial workers who are continuously around organic solvents that are at the highest risk. Industrial solvents, in particular, have been well researched and definitively show that exposure can lead to ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). Lab tests that used animals, along with surveys of people, have both demonstrated this to be true. Hearing loss in the mid frequency range can be impacted when the little hair cells of the ear are injured by solvents. Unfortunately, the ototoxicity of these compounds isn’t well known by business owners. These dangers are even less recognized by workers. So there are insufficient standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those workers. All workers who deal with solvents could have hearing exams regularly and that would be really helpful. These hearing tests would detect the very earliest signs of hearing loss, and workers would be able to respond appropriately.

You Need to go to Work

Most recommendations for protecting your ears from these particular organic substances include managing your exposure and also periodic hearing examinations. But if you expect that recommendation to be practical, you need to be mindful of the risks first. When the dangers are obvious, it’s not that hard. No one doubts that loud noises can harm your hearing and so taking steps to protect your ears from day-to-day sounds of the factory floor are logical and obvious. But when the threat is not visible as is the case for the millions of Americans who work with organic solvents, solutions can be more difficult to sell. Fortunately, as researchers sound more alarms, employees and employers are moving to make their places of work a little bit safer for everyone. For now, it’s a smart idea to try to work with these products in a well-ventilated place and to wear masks. It would also be a practical plan to have your hearing checked out by a hearing specialist.

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