Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

Sometimes it’s easy to discern risks to your ears: a loud jet engine next to your ears or the screeching machinery on the floor of a factory. When the hazards are intuitive and logical, it’s easy to get people on board with practical solutions (which normally include using earplugs or earmuffs). But what if your hearing could be damaged by an organic compound? After all, just because something is organic, doesn’t that necessarily mean it’s good for you? But how is possible that your ears could be harmed by an organic substance?

You Probably Won’t Want to Eat This Organic Substance

To be clear, we’re not talking about organic things like produce or other food products. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, chemicals known as organic solvents have a good possibility of damaging your hearing even with minimal exposure. It’s significant to note that, in this case, organic does not mean the sort of label you see on fruit at the grocery store. In fact, marketers use the positive associations we have with the word “organic” to get us to buy products with the implication it’s good for you (or at least not bad for you). When food is classified as organic, it means that particular growing methods are used to keep food from having artificial impurities. The term organic, when associated with solvents, is a term used in chemistry. In the field of chemistry, the word organic represents any chemicals and compounds that have bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can generate all varieties of different molecules and, therefore, a wide variety of different useful chemicals. But that doesn’t imply they’re not potentially harmful. Millions of workers each year handle organic solvents and they’re frequently exposed to the hazards of hearing loss while doing so.

Where do You Find Organic Solvents?

Some of the following products contain organic solvents:

  • Cleaning supplies
  • Adhesives and glue
  • Paints and varnishes
  • Degreasing chemicals

You get the point. So, the question quickly becomes, will painting (or even cleaning) your bathroom harm your hearing?

Organic Solvents And The Hazards Associated With 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 probably be okay while you clean your kitchen. The most potent risk is to those with the most prolonged contact, in other words, factory workers who develop or make use of organic solvents on a commercial scale. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been demonstrated to be linked to subjection to organic compounds. Lab tests that used animals, in addition to surveys of people, have both demonstrated this to be true. Exposure to the solvents can have a negative effect on the outer hair cells of the ear, leading to hearing loss in the mid-frequency range. Unfortunately, the ototoxicity of these solvents isn’t widely recognized by business owners. These risks are even less recognized by workers. So those workers don’t have standardized protocols to safeguard them. One thing that may really help, for instance, would be standardized hearing tests for all workers who handle organic solvents on a consistent basis. These workers would be able to get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be discovered in its beginning phases.

You Need to Work

Most suggestions for safeguarding your ears from these particular organic compounds include controlling your exposure as well as regular hearing examinations. But in order for that recommendation to be successful, you need to be aware of the hazards first. When the dangers are in plain sight, it’s not that hard. No one doubts that loud noises can injure your ears and so precautions to safeguard your ears from the daily sound of the factory floor are obvious and logical. But it’s not so straight forward to persuade employers to take precautions when there is an invisible hazard. Luckily, continuing research is helping both employees and employers take a safer path. Some of the most practical advice would be to use a mask and work in a well ventilated area. It would also be a good plan to have your hearing checked out by a hearing specialist.