Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

Sometimes it’s easy to recognize dangers to your ears: a loud jet engine next to your ears or the bellowing machinery on the factory floor. When the hazards are logical and intuitive, it’s easy to convince people to take practical solutions (which normally include wearing earmuffs or earplugs). But what if there was an organic compound that was just as harmful for your ears as excessive noise? After all, if something is organic, doesn’t that mean it’s good for you? But how is possible that your hearing could be damaged by an organic substance?

An Organic Substance You Wouldn’t Want to Eat

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, there’s a good chance that a group of chemicals called organic solvents can injure your hearing even if exposure is minimal and brief. It’s important to note that, in this case, organic does not refer to the kind of label you find on fruit at the grocery store. In fact, marketers utilize the positive connections we have with the word “organic” to get us to buy products with the suggestion it’s good for you (or at least not bad for you). The term organic, when associated with food means that the growers didn’t utilize particular chemicals. The term organic, when related to solvents, is a chemistry term. Within the discipline of chemistry, the word organic represents any compounds and chemicals that consist of bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can generate all kinds of distinctive molecules and, therefore, a large number of different useful chemicals. But at times they can also be unsafe. Millions of workers every year work with organic solvents and they’re regularly exposed to the dangers of hearing loss while doing so.

Organic Solvents, Where do You Find Them?

Organic solvents are found in some of the following products:

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

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

Organic Solvents And The Hazards Associated With Them

The more you’re subjected to these substances, according to recent research, the higher the associated risks. This means that you’ll most likely be okay while you clean your bathroom. The most potent risk is to people with the highest degree of contact, in other words, factory workers who produce or utilize organic solvents on an industrial scale. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been shown to be associated with subjection to organic compounds. This has been shown both in lab experiments using animals and in experiential surveys with real people. Loss of hearing in the mid frequency range can be impacted when the tiny hair cells of the ear are injured by solvents. Regretfully, the ototoxicity of these compounds isn’t well known by business owners. Even fewer workers are aware of the dangers. So there are insufficient standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those workers. All workers who deal with solvents could get hearing tests on a regular basis and that would really help. These workers could get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be identified in its beginning phases.

You Can’t Just Quit Your Job

Routine Hearing assessments and controlling your exposure to these compounds are the most frequent recommendations. But if you want that advice to be practical, you need to be aware of the dangers first. It’s straight forward 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 when the danger is not visible as is the case for the millions of Us citizens who work with organic solvents, solutions can be a harder sell. Thankfully, as specialists sound more alarm bells, employees and employers are starting to make their places of work a little bit less dangerous for everyone. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to only use these products in a well-ventilated place and to always wear a mask. Having your ears examined by a hearing expert is also a practical idea.