“Organic” Isn’t Always Good For You

Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

At times the dangers to your hearing are obvious: the roaring jet engine next to your ears or the bellowing machines on the factory floor. When the dangers are logical and intuitive, it’s easy to get people on board with practical solutions (which normally include using earmuffs or earplugs). But what if there was an organic compound that was just as bad for your hearing as excessive noise? Just because something is organic doesn’t always mean it’s good for you. But how is possible that your hearing could be damaged by an organic substance?

An Organic Compound You Wouldn’t Want to Eat

To clarify, these organic compounds are not something you can get in the produce section of your supermarket nor would you 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 damaging your hearing even with very little exposure. To be certain, the sort of organic label you find on fruit in the grocery store is completely different. Actually, marketers make use of the positive associations we have with the word “organic” to sell us products with the implication it’s good for you (or at the very least not bad for you). The word organic, when associated with food indicates that the growers didn’t employ particular chemicals. The term organic, when associated with 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 varieties of distinctive molecules and, therefore, a wide range of different convenient chemicals. But that doesn’t imply they aren’t potentially hazardous. Each year, millions of workers are exposed to the hazards of hearing loss by handling organic solvents.

Where do You Come Across Organic Solvents?

Some of the following items contain organic solvents:

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

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

Risks Associated With Organic Solvents

The more you’re exposed to these substances, based on recent research, the higher the associated dangers. This means that you’ll probably be okay while you clean your house. The biggest risk is to people with the most prolonged 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 linked to subjection to organic substances. Lab tests that utilized animals, as well as surveys of people, have both shown this to be the case. Subjection to the solvents can have a negative effect on the outer hair cells of the ear, leading to hearing loss in the mid-frequency range. Unfortunately, the ototoxicity of these compounds isn’t well known by business owners. An even smaller number of workers are aware of the dangers. So there are a lack of standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those employees. All workers who deal with solvents could get hearing examinations on a regular basis and that would really help. These hearing screenings would be able to detect the very earliest indications of hearing loss, and workers would be able to respond accordingly.

You Can’t Simply Quit Your Job

Most recommendations for protecting your hearing from these particular organic compounds include managing your exposure along with periodic hearing screenings. But first, you need to be mindful of the dangers before you can follow that advice. When the risks are in plain sight, it’s not that hard. It’s obvious that you have to take safeguards against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud noises. But it isn’t so straight forward to convince employers to take safety measures when there is an invisible threat. Luckily, continuing research is helping both employers and employees take a safer approach. Some of the most practical advice would be to use a mask and work in a well ventilated area. It would also be a smart idea to get your ears checked 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.