“Organic” Isn’t Necessarily Good For You

Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

Sometimes it can be easy to recognize risks to your hearing: a loud jet engine beside your ears or the bellowing machines on the floor of a factory. It’s not hard to convince people to protect their ears when they know they will be around loud noises. But what if there was an organic compound that was just as harmful for your ears as too much noise? After all, if something is organic, doesn’t that necessarily mean it’s healthy for you? How could something that’s organic be equally as bad for your hearing as loud noise?

You Might Not Want to Eat This Organic Substance

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, chemicals called organic solvents have a strong possibility of damaging your ears even with very little exposure. It’s significant to note that, in this case, organic does not mean the type of label you find on fruit at the supermarket. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is utilized by marketers to make people presume a product is good for them. When food is classified as organic, it means that specific growing practices are implemented to keep food from having artificial contaminants. When we mention organic solvents, the word organic is related to chemistry. In the discipline of chemistry, the term organic represents any compounds and chemicals that have bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can generate all varieties of unique molecules and, therefore, a wide range of different convenient chemicals. But that doesn’t mean they’re not potentially harmful. Every year, millions of workers are exposed to the dangers of hearing loss by handling organic solvents.

Organic Solvents, Where do You Find Them?

Organic solvents are found in some of the following items:

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

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

Organic Solvents And The Risks Related to Them

The more you’re subjected to these substances, based on current research, the higher the associated hazard. 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 use organic solvents on a commercial scale. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been demonstrated to be associated with exposure to organic compounds. This has been shown both in lab experiments using animals and in experiential surveys involving real people. Subjection to the solvents can have a negative effect on the outer hair cells of the ear, resulting in hearing loss in the mid-frequency range. Regretfully, the ototoxicity of these solvents isn’t widely recognized by company owners. These hazards are known even less by workers. So there are an absence of standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those workers. All workers who deal with solvents could have hearing examinations regularly and that would really help. These workers could get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be identified in its beginning stages.

You Need to go to Work

Most suggestions for protecting your hearing from these specific organic substances include managing your exposure and also regular hearing screenings. But first, you need to be aware of the hazards before you can follow that advice. It’s simple when the hazards are plain to see. It’s obvious that you should 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. Thankfully, as researchers sound more alarms, employers and employees alike are starting to make their places of work a little bit less dangerous for everyone. Some of the most practical advice would be to wear a mask and work in a well ventilated place. Having your hearing evaluated by a hearing care professional is also a smart idea.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Schedule an appointment to see if hearing aids could benefit you.