“Organic” Isn’t Always Good For You

Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

At times the hazards to your hearing are clear: loud equipment or a roaring jet engine. easy to convince people to use ear protection when they know they will be around loud sounds. But what if there was an organic substance that was as bad for your hearing as excessive noise? Just because something is organic doesn’t always mean it’s healthy for you. But how is possible that your ears could be damaged by an organic substance?

You Might Not Want to Eat This Organic Substance

To clarify, these organic compounds are not something you can pick up at the produce section of your grocery store nor would you want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, there’s a good possibility that a collection of chemicals known as organic solvents can harm your hearing even if exposure is brief and minimal. It’s worthwhile to note that, in this situation, organic doesn’t refer to the kind of label you find on fruit in the supermarket. Actually, marketers utilize the positive connections 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 means that the growers didn’t use particular chemicals. The term organic, when related to solvents, is a chemistry term. Within the field of chemistry, the term organic makes reference to any chemicals and compounds that have bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can produce all kinds of distinctive molecules and, consequently, a wide variety of different useful chemicals. But that doesn’t guarantee they aren’t potentially dangerous. Every year, millions of workers are exposed to the risks of hearing loss by handling organic solvents.

Where do You Find Organic Solvents?

Organic solvents are used in some of the following items:

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

You get it. So, the question suddenly becomes, will painting (or even cleaning) your living room damage your hearing?

Dangers Related to Organic Solvents

Based on the most current research available, the dangers associated with organic solvents generally increase the more you’re subjected to them. This means that you’ll probably be okay while you clean your bathroom. The biggest risk is experienced by individuals with the most prolonged contact, in other words, factory workers who develop or make use of organic solvents on a commercial scale. Industrial solvents, most notably, have been well investigated and definitively demonstrate that exposure can trigger ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). Lab tests that utilized animals, in addition to surveys of people, have both demonstrated this to be true. Loss of hearing in the mid frequency range can be affected when the little hair cells in the ear are injured by solvents. Regretfully, the ototoxicity of these compounds isn’t widely recognized by company owners. These dangers are even less recognized by workers. So there are an absence of standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those workers. All workers who handle solvents could get hearing screenings on a regular basis and that would be really helpful. These workers would be able to get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be discovered in its beginning stages.

You Can’t Just Quit Your Job

Most recommendations for protecting your hearing from these specific organic compounds include regulating your exposure as well as periodic hearing screenings. But if you expect that advice to be successful, you have to be aware of the risks first. When the dangers are in plain sight, it’s not that hard. It’s obvious that you should take safeguards to protect against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud sounds. But it isn’t so straight forward to persuade employers to take precautions when there is an invisible hazard. Thankfully, as specialists sound more alarm bells, employees and employers are beginning to make their work environments a little bit less dangerous for everyone. For the time being, it’s a good idea to try to use these products in a well-ventilated place and to wear masks. It would also be a practical idea to get your ears looked at by a hearing care professional.

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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