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Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

Sometimes it can be easy to discern dangers to your ears: a roaring jet engine or loud equipment. When the risks are intuitive and logical, it’s easy to convince people to take practical solutions (which commonly include using earplugs or earmuffs). But what if your hearing could be harmed by an organic compound? Simply because something is organic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy for you. How can something that’s organic be equally as bad for your hearing as loud noise?

You Probably Won’t Want to Eat This Organic Compound

To clarify, these organic substances are not something you can get at the produce department of your grocery store nor would you want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, chemicals called organic solvents have a good chance of harming your hearing even with minimal exposure. It’s worthwhile to note that, in this situation, organic doesn’t make reference to the sort of label you find on fruit in the grocery store. Actually, marketers make use of the positive associations we have with the word “organic” to get us to buy products with the suggestion that it’s actually good for you (or at least not bad for you). When food is designated as organic, it means that particular growing practices are used to keep food free of artificial pollutants. The term organic, when related to solvents, is a chemistry term. In the field of chemistry, the term organic makes reference to any compounds and chemicals that consist of bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can create a large number of molecules and therefore practical chemicals. But at times they can also be hazardous. Each year, millions of workers are exposed to the risks of hearing loss by working with organic solvents.

Organic Solvents, Where do You Find Them?

Some of the following products contain organic solvents:

  • Varnishes and paints
  • Degreasing elements
  • Glues and adhesives
  • Cleaning supplies

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

Dangers Related to Organic Solvents

Based on the most current research available, the risks associated with organic solvents tend to increase the more you’re exposed to them. This means that you’ll probably be okay while you clean your house. The most potent risk is experienced by those with the highest degree of contact, in other words, factory workers who develop or utilize organic solvents on an industrial scale. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been shown to be linked to subjection to organic substances. Lab tests that used animals, as well as surveys of people, have both shown this to be true. Subjection to the solvents can have a negative impact on the outer hair cells of the ear, resulting in loss of hearing in the mid-frequency range. Regretfully, the ototoxicity of these compounds isn’t well known by company owners. An even smaller number of workers are aware of the dangers. So those workers don’t have standardized protocols to protect them. All workers who handle solvents could get hearing examinations regularly and that would really help. These hearing examinations would be able to detect the very earliest signs of hearing loss, and workers would be able to respond accordingly.

You Have to Work

Routine Hearing examinations and controlling your exposure to these solvents are the most common recommendations. But in order for that advice to be effective, you need to be informed of the hazards first. It’s straight forward when the hazards are plain to see. Everyone recognizes that loud noises can damage your ears and so taking steps to protect your ears from day-to-day sounds of the factory floor are logical and obvious. But it isn’t so easy to persuade employers to take safety measures when there is an invisible threat. The good news is, continuing research is assisting both employees and employers take a safer approach. Some of the best advice would be to wear a mask and work in a well ventilated spot. Having your ears examined by a hearing expert is also a smart idea.

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