Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

At times the dangers to your hearing are obvious: the roaring jet engine beside your ears or the screeching equipment on the factory floor. When the risks are logical and intuitive, it’s easy to get people on board with practical solutions (which usually include wearing earplugs or earmuffs). But what if your hearing could be harmed by an organic substance? 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 damaged by an organic substance?

You Might Not Want to Eat This Organic Compound

To clarify, these organic substances are not something you can get in the produce department of your supermarket nor would you want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, there’s a good possibility that a group of chemicals called organic solvents can damage your hearing even if exposure is brief and minimal. To be clear, the sort of organic label you see on fruit in the supermarket is completely different. In reality, the word “organic” is employed by marketers to make people presume a product is good for them. The term organic, when related to food means that the growers didn’t use particular chemicals. The word organic, when associated with solvents, is a chemistry term. Within the field of chemistry, the term organic makes reference to any chemicals and compounds that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can generate all varieties of distinctive molecules and, therefore, a wide range of different useful chemicals. But that doesn’t mean they’re not potentially hazardous. Millions of workers every year work with organic solvents and they’re frequently exposed to the dangers of hearing loss while doing so.

Organic Solvents, Where do You Come Across Them?

Some of the following products contain organic solvents:

  • Cleaning products
  • Adhesives and glue
  • Varnishes and paints
  • Degreasing chemicals

You get the idea. So, this is the question, will your hearing be damaged by cleaning or painting?

Organic Solvents And The Hazards Related to Them

The more you’re subjected to these substances, based on recent research, the higher the corresponding hazard. This means that you’ll most likely be okay while you clean your bathroom. It’s the industrial laborers who are regularly exposed to organic solvents that are at the highest danger. Industrial solvents, in particular, have been well researched and definitively show that exposure can lead to ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). This has been shown both in lab experiments involving animals and in experiential surveys with real people. Loss of hearing in the mid frequency range can be affected when the tiny hair cells of the ear are injured by solvents. Regretfully, the ototoxicity of these solvents isn’t well recognized by business owners. An even smaller number of workers know about the risks. So there are an absence of standardized protocols to safeguard the hearing of those workers. One thing that could really help, for instance, would be standardized hearing examinations for all workers who deal with organic solvents on a regular basis. These hearing examinations would detect the very earliest signs of hearing loss, and workers could respond accordingly.

You Can’t Just Quit Your Job

Periodic Hearing examinations and controlling your exposure to these compounds are the most frequent recommendations. But in order for that advice to be practical, you have to be mindful of the dangers first. It’s straight forward when the risks are plain to see. It’s obvious that you should take precautions to protect against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud noises. But when the threat is not visible as is the case for the millions of people who work with organic solvents, solutions can be a harder sell. Luckily, continuing research is helping both employees and employers take a safer path. Some of the most practical advice would be to wear a mask and work in a well ventilated spot. It would also be a practical idea to have your ears checked out by a hearing specialist.