Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

Sometimes it’s easy to recognize dangers to your ears: loud equipment or a roaring jet engine. When the hazards are logical and intuitive, it’s easy to get people on board with pragmatic solutions (which normally include wearing earplugs or earmuffs). But what if there was an organic compound that was just as bad for your hearing as too much noise? Just because something is organic doesn’t 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 Compound

To clarify, these organic compounds are not something you can get in the produce department of your grocery store and you wouldn’t want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, chemicals known as organic solvents have a strong possibility of injuring your hearing even with minimal exposure. To be clear, the sort of organic label you see on fruit in the supermarket is entirely different. In reality, the word “organic” is utilized by marketers to make people think a product isn’t harmful for them. When food is designated as organic, it means that certain growing practices are employed to keep food from having artificial impurities. When we mention organic solvents, the word organic is chemistry-related. In the field of chemistry, the word organic represents any compounds and chemicals that have bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can generate all kinds of different molecules and, consequently, a wide variety of different useful chemicals. But at times they can also be harmful. Each year, millions of workers are exposed to the risks of hearing loss by handling organic solvents.

Where do You Come Across Organic Solvents?

Some of the following items contain organic solvents:

  • Degreasing elements
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Adhesives and glue
  • Varnishes and paints

You get it. So, this is the question, will painting (or even cleaning) your bathroom harm your hearing?

Dangers Associated With Organic Solvents

The more you’re exposed to these substances, based on current research, the higher the associated dangers. This means that you’ll most likely be okay while you clean your bathroom. It’s the industrial laborers who are continuously around organic solvents that are at the highest danger. Industrial solvents, in particular, have been well researched and definitively show that exposure can result in ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). This has been demonstrated both in lab experiments using animals and in experiential surveys with actual people. Hearing loss in the mid frequency range can be affected when the tiny hair cells of the ear are damaged by solvents. The problem is that a lot of businesses are don’t know about the ototoxicity of these compounds. Even fewer workers know about the hazards. So those employees don’t have consistent protocols to protect them. One thing that may really help, for instance, would be standardized hearing examinations for all workers who handle organic solvents on a regular basis. These hearing examinations would detect the very earliest signs of hearing loss, and workers would be able to react appropriately.

You Can’t Simply Quit Your Job

Most guidelines for safeguarding your hearing from these particular organic substances include managing your exposure coupled with routine hearing tests. But first, you have to be conscious 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 safeguards to protect 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 hazard. The good news is, continuing research is helping both employees and employers take a safer approach. Some of the most practical advice would be to wear a mask and work in a well ventilated spot. It would also be a good plan to get 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.

Main Line Audiology Consultants, PC