Hearing Health Blog

Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

Sometimes it’s easy to identify dangers to your hearing: the roaring jet engine beside your ears or the screeching equipment on the factory floor. It’s not hard to convince people to protect their ears when they know they will be near loud sounds. But what if there was an organic compound that was just as bad for your ears as too much noise? Just because something is organic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy for you. How could something that’s organic be equally as bad for your hearing as loud noise?

An Organic Compound You Don’t Want to Eat

To clarify, these organic compounds are not something you can get at the produce section of your grocery store and you wouldn’t want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, chemicals called organic solvents have a strong possibility of injuring your ears even with minimal exposure. To be clear, the type of organic label you see on fruit in the supermarket is totally different. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is used by marketers to make people believe a product is good for them. The word organic, when related to food means that the growers didn’t employ certain chemicals. When we talk about organic solvents, the word organic is chemistry-related. Within the discipline of chemistry, the term organic represents any chemicals and compounds that have bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can generate all kinds of unique molecules and, therefore, a wide range of different useful chemicals. But sometimes they can also be dangerous. Millions of workers every year handle organic solvents and they’re frequently exposed to the hazards of hearing loss as they do so.

Organic Solvents, Where do You Find Them?

Organic solvents are found in some of the following items:

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

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

Organic Solvents And The Hazards Related to Them

The more you’re exposed to these substances, based on recent research, the higher the corresponding dangers. So when you clean your home you will probably be ok. The biggest risk is experienced by people with the highest degree of contact, in other words, factory workers who produce or utilize organic solvents on a commercial scale. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been demonstrated to be connected to subjection to organic substances. Lab tests that utilized animals, along with surveys of people, have both shown this to be true. Hearing loss in the mid frequency range can be affected when the tiny hair cells of the ear are damaged by solvents. Regretfully, the ototoxicity of these solvents isn’t well recognized by business owners. These dangers are even less recognized by workers. So those workers don’t have standardized protocols to protect them. All workers who deal with solvents could get hearing exams on a regular basis and that would be really helpful. These workers could get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be discovered in its beginning phases.

You Have to go to Work

Most suggestions for protecting your hearing from these particular organic compounds include managing your exposure coupled with periodic hearing screenings. But first, you have to be aware of the dangers before you can follow that advice. It’s not a problem when the risks are well known. It’s obvious that you should take precautions against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud sounds. But it’s not so easy to persuade employers to take precautions when there is an invisible threat. Thankfully, as researchers raise more alarms, employees and employers are starting to make their work environments a little bit safer for everyone. Some of the best advice would be to wear a mask and work in a well ventilated spot. It would also be a practical plan to have your ears checked out by a hearing specialist.

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.
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