Quality Hearing Systems - Maplewood, MN

Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

Sometimes the dangers to your ears are clear: a loud jet engine next to your ears or the screeching machines on the floor of a factory. When the hazards are logical and intuitive, it’s easy to convince people to take practical solutions (which usually include using earplugs or earmuffs). But what if there was an organic substance that was just as bad for your hearing as too much noise? Simply because something is organic doesn’t always mean it’s healthy for you. How could something that’s organic be just as bad for your ears as loud noise?

An Organic Compound You Don’t Want to Eat

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 good possibility of harming your hearing even with minimal exposure. To be clear, the type of organic label you find on fruit in the supermarket is entirely different. In fact, marketers use the positive connections we have with the word “organic” to get us to buy products with the suggestion it’s actually good for you (or at least not bad for you). The word organic, when associated with food signifies that the growers didn’t utilize particular chemicals. The term organic, when related to solvents, is a term used in chemistry. Within the field of chemistry, the word organic refers to any compounds and chemicals that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can create a significant number of molecules and consequently practical chemicals. But at times they can also be dangerous. Every year, millions of workers are exposed to the risks of hearing loss by handling organic solvents.

Where do You Come Across Organic Solvents?

Some of the following products contain organic solvents:

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

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

Organic Solvents And The Hazards Associated With Them

According to the most recent research available, the dangers related to organic solvents generally increase the more you’re subjected to them. So when you clean your house you will most likely be okay. It’s the industrial workers who are regularly around organic solvents that are at the highest risk. Industrial solvents, especially, have been well investigated and definitively show that exposure can lead to ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). Lab tests that used animals, as well as surveys of people, have both revealed this to be true. Loss of hearing in the mid frequency range can be affected when the tiny hair cells of the ear are damaged by solvents. The issue is that many businesses are not aware of the ototoxicity of these compounds. These hazards are known even less by workers. So there are insufficient standardized protocols to safeguard the hearing of those employees. All workers who deal with solvents could get hearing tests regularly and that would be really helpful. These workers could get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be detected in its beginning stages.

You Need to go to Work

Periodic Hearing tests and controlling your exposure to these solvents are the most common suggestions. But first, you need to be aware of the hazards before you can follow that advice. It’s simple when the hazards are well known. Everyone knows that loud noises can harm your ears and so taking steps to protect your ears from the daily sound of the factory floor seems obvious and logical. But it’s not so easy to persuade employers to take precautions when there is an invisible threat. The good news is, ongoing research is assisting both employers and employees take a safer approach. Some of the best advice would be to use a mask and work in a well ventilated area. It would also be a practical idea to have your ears looked at by a hearing care specialist.