Florida Hearing Matters - Fort Lauderdale, FL

Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

Sometimes it can be easy to discern dangers to your ears: loud machinery or a roaring jet engine. easy to convince people to use ear protection when they recognize that they will be near loud sounds. But what if your hearing could be damaged by an organic compound? After all, just because something is organic, doesn’t that necessarily mean it’s good for you? But how is possible that your hearing could be harmed by an organic substance?

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, there’s a strong chance that a collection of chemicals known as organic solvents can injure your hearing even if exposure is limited and minimal. To be clear, the kind of organic label you see on fruit in the grocery store is entirely different. In reality, the word “organic” is utilized by marketers to make consumers believe a product isn’t harmful for them. The term organic, when pertaining to food signifies that the growers didn’t use certain chemicals. The word organic, when associated with solvents, is a chemistry term. Within the field of chemistry, the word organic represents any compounds and chemicals that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can produce all varieties of unique molecules and, consequently, a wide range of different useful chemicals. But sometimes they can also be unsafe. Each year, millions of workers are exposed to the dangers of hearing loss by working with organic solvents.

Where do You Find Organic Solvents?

Organic solvents are found in some of the following products:

  • Paints and varnishes
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Degreasing elements
  • Adhesives and glue

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

Organic Solvents And The Dangers Associated With Them

According to the most recent research out there, the hazards associated with organic solvents generally increase the more you’re exposed to them. This means that you’ll probably be fine while you clean your kitchen. The biggest risk is experienced by those with the most prolonged 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 connected to subjection to organic compounds. This has been demonstrated both in laboratory experiments using animals and in experiential surveys with real people. Hearing loss in the mid frequency range can be impacted when the tiny hair cells of the ear are damaged by solvents. Regretfully, the ototoxicity of these compounds isn’t well recognized by company owners. Even fewer workers are aware of the dangers. So there are insufficient standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those employees. One thing that could really help, for example, would be standardized hearing screening for all workers who use organic solvents on a regular basis. These hearing tests would detect the very earliest signs of hearing loss, and workers could react appropriately.

You Can’t Just Quit Your Job

Most guidelines for safeguarding your ears from these specific organic compounds include regulating your exposure along with regular hearing screenings. But first, you have to be conscious of the hazards before you can follow that advice. It’s straight forward when the hazards are well known. Everyone knows that loud noises can injure your ears and so precautions to safeguard your hearing from the daily sound of the factory floor are logical and obvious. But when the danger is not visible as it is for the millions of Americans who work with organic solvents, solutions can be a harder sell. The good news is, ongoing research is helping both employees and employers take a safer approach. For the time being, it’s a smart plan to try to work with these products in a well-ventilated area and to always use a mask. It would also be a good idea to get your ears checked out by a hearing care professional.