Gold Country Hearing - Gold Country Valley, CA

Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

Sometimes it can be easy to discern hazards to your ears: a loud jet engine next to your ears or the bellowing machines on the floor of a factory. When the risks are intuitive and logical, it’s easy to get people on board with pragmatic solutions (which usually include wearing earplugs or earmuffs). But what if there was an organic substance that was as harmful for your ears as excessive noise? Simply because something is organic doesn’t always 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 Substance

To clarify, these organic substances are not something you can get in the produce section of your supermarket and you wouldn’t want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, there’s a strong chance that a collection of chemicals called organic solvents can damage your hearing even if exposure is minimal and limited. It’s important to note that, in this situation, organic does not make reference to the type of label you find on fruit in the grocery store. In reality, the word “organic” is used by marketers to make consumers think a product isn’t harmful for them. The term organic, when associated with food signifies that the growers didn’t use certain chemicals. When we talk about organic solvents, the term organic is related to chemistry. Within the field of chemistry, the term organic represents any compounds and chemicals that consist of bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can generate all varieties of distinctive molecules and, consequently, a large number of different convenient chemicals. But that doesn’t mean they’re not potentially dangerous. Every year, millions of workers are exposed to the dangers of hearing loss by working with organic solvents.

Where do You Find Organic Solvents?

Some of the following items have organic solvents:

  • Cleaning products
  • Paints and varnishes
  • Degreasing chemicals
  • Adhesives and glue

You get it. So, here’s the question, will your hearing be harmed by painting or even cleaning?

Hazard Related to Organic Solvents

The more you’re exposed to these substances, according to recent research, the higher the associated hazard. This means that you’ll probably be fine while you clean your house. The biggest risk is experienced by individuals with the highest degree of 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 lead to ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). Lab tests that utilized animals, along with surveys of people, have both revealed this to be true. Loss of hearing in the mid frequency range can be impacted when the tiny hair cells of the ear are damaged by solvents. The difficulty is that many companies are unaware of the ototoxicity of these compounds. An even smaller number of workers are aware of the dangers. So those employees don’t have consistent protocols to protect them. All workers who handle solvents could have 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 identified in its beginning phases.

You Can’t Simply Quit Your Job

Routine Hearing tests and limiting your exposure to these compounds are the most frequent suggestions. But if you want that recommendation to be practical, you need to be aware of the hazards first. It’s easy when the hazards are well known. It’s obvious that you have to take safeguards to protect against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud sounds. But when the danger is invisible as it is for the millions of people who work with organic solvents, solutions can be more difficult to sell. The good news is, ongoing research is assisting both employees and employers take a safer approach. Some of the best advice would be to use a mask and work in a well ventilated spot. Having your ears checked by a hearing expert is also a practical idea.

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