Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

Sometimes it’s easy to discern risks to your hearing: loud machines or a roaring jet engine. When the risks are logical and intuitive, it’s easy to get people on board with pragmatic solutions (which normally include using earmuffs or earplugs). But what if your hearing could be harmed by an organic compound? Just because something is organic doesn’t always mean it’s healthy for you. But how is possible that your hearing could be damaged by an organic substance?

You Probably Won’t Want to Eat This Organic Compound

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 known as organic solvents have a good chance of harming your hearing even with very little exposure. It’s significant to note that, in this situation, organic doesn’t make reference to the kind of label you see on fruit at the grocery store. As a matter of fact, 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 utilize particular chemicals. The term organic, when related to solvents, is a chemistry term. Within the discipline of chemistry, the word organic describes any chemicals and compounds that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can produce all varieties of different molecules and, consequently, a wide range of different useful chemicals. But that doesn’t imply they aren’t potentially hazardous. Each year, millions of workers are exposed to the risks of hearing loss by handling organic solvents.

Organic Solvents, Where do You Come Across Them?

Organic solvents are found in some of the following items:

  • Cleaning supplies
  • Adhesives and glue
  • Varnishes and paints
  • Degreasing elements

You get the point. So, the question quickly becomes, will your hearing be damaged by painting or even cleaning?

Hazard Related to Organic Solvents

Based on the most recent research out there, the dangers related to organic solvents generally increase the more you’re exposed to them. So when you clean your home you will probably be okay. It’s the industrial workers who are constantly around organic solvents that are at the highest danger. Industrial solvents, especially, have been well studied and definitively show that exposure can trigger ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). This has been demonstrated both in lab experiments involving animals and in experiential surveys with real people. Hearing loss in the mid frequency range can be affected when the tiny hair cells in the ear are injured by solvents. Regretfully, the ototoxicity of these solvents isn’t well recognized by company owners. An even smaller number of workers are aware of the dangers. So there are insufficient standardized protocols to safeguard the hearing of those employees. All workers who handle solvents could have hearing screenings on a regular basis and that would be really helpful. These hearing examinations would detect the very earliest signs of hearing loss, and workers would be able to react accordingly.

You Can’t Simply Quit Your Job

Routine Hearing assessments and limiting your exposure to these solvents are the most common recommendations. But in order for that advice to be successful, you have to be mindful of the risks first. When the dangers are obvious, it’s not that hard. It’s obvious that you need to take safeguards to protect against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud sounds. But it’s not so straight forward to persuade employers to take precautions when there is an invisible hazard. The good news is, continuing research is assisting both employees and employers take a safer approach. Some of the most practical advice would be to use a mask and work in a well ventilated spot. It would also be a practical plan to have your ears examined by a hearing specialist.

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