“Organic” Isn’t Always Good For You

Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

Sometimes the dangers to your hearing are obvious: loud machinery or a roaring jet engine. easy to convince people to use ear protection when they recognize that they will be around loud sounds. But what if there was an organic compound that was just as harmful for your hearing as excessive noise? After all, if something is organic, doesn’t that mean it’s healthy 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 Compound

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 harming your ears even with minimal exposure. To be clear, the sort of organic label you find on fruit in the grocery store is entirely different. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is used by marketers to make consumers believe a product isn’t harmful for them. The term organic, when pertaining to food means that the growers didn’t use certain chemicals. The term organic, when related to solvents, is a chemistry term. Within the discipline of chemistry, the term organic refers to any compounds and chemicals that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can create a high number of molecules and consequently useful chemicals. But that doesn’t mean they’re not potentially dangerous. Every year, millions of workers are exposed to the dangers of hearing loss by handling organic solvents.

Where do You Come Across Organic Solvents?

Organic solvents are used in some of the following items:

  • Paints and varnishes
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Degreasing chemicals
  • Glues and adhesives

You get the idea. So, here’s the question, will painting (or even cleaning) your bathroom harm your hearing?

Organic Solvents And The Risks Associated With Them

Based on the most recent research available, the risks related to organic solvents tend to increase the more you’re subjected to them. This means that you’ll most likely be fine while you clean your kitchen. It’s the industrial laborers who are continuously around organic solvents that are at the highest risk. Industrial solvents, especially, have been well investigated and definitively show that exposure can result in ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). This has been demonstrated both in laboratory experiments involving animals and in experiential surveys with real people. Subjection to the solvents can have a negative effect on the outer hair cells of the ear, resulting in loss of hearing in the mid-frequency range. The issue is that many businesses are not aware of the ototoxicity of these compounds. Even fewer workers are aware of the hazards. So there are an absence of standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those workers. One thing that could really help, for instance, would be standardized hearing tests for all workers who handle organic compounds on a consistent basis. These hearing screenings would detect the very earliest signs of hearing loss, and workers could react accordingly.

You Can’t Simply Quit Your Job

Most guidelines for protecting your hearing from these particular organic compounds include regulating your exposure and also routine hearing examinations. But in order for that advice to be effective, you have to be aware of the dangers first. When the hazards are in plain sight, it’s not that hard. It’s obvious that you should take precautions to protect against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud sounds. But it isn’t so easy to persuade employers to take precautions when there is an invisible threat. The good news is, continuing research is assisting both employees and employers take a safer approach. Some of the most practical advice would be to use a mask and work in a well ventilated spot. Having your hearing examined by a hearing care specialist is also a practical idea.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.