“Organic” Isn’t Necessarily Good For You

Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

Sometimes the hazards to your hearing are clear: a roaring jet engine or loud machinery. When the hazards are intuitive and logical, it’s easy to convince people to take pragmatic solutions (which commonly include using earmuffs or earplugs). But what if there was an organic compound that was just as harmful for your hearing as excessive noise? Just because something is organic doesn’t 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 good possibility that a collection of chemicals called organic solvents can harm your hearing even if exposure is limited and minimal. To be certain, the kind of organic label you see on fruit in the supermarket is entirely different. In reality, the word “organic” is utilized by marketers to make people think a product is good for them. When food is designated as organic, it means that certain growing methods are used to keep food from having artificial impurities. The word organic, when associated with solvents, is a chemistry term. In the discipline of chemistry, the term organic makes reference to any chemicals and compounds that have bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can create a large number of molecules and consequently practical chemicals. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t potentially harmful. Every 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 used in some of the following products:

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

You get the idea. So, here’s the question, will painting (or even cleaning) your bathroom damage your hearing?

Hazard Associated With Organic Solvents

The more you’re exposed to these substances, based on recent research, the higher the associated risks. This means that you’ll probably be okay while you clean your kitchen. The most potent risk is to people 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 shown both in lab experiments using animals and in experiential surveys with real people. Exposure to the solvents can have a negative impact on the outer hair cells of the ear, causing hearing loss in the mid-frequency range. The problem is that a lot of businesses are not aware of the ototoxicity of these compounds. An even smaller number of workers know about the dangers. So there are insufficient standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those workers. All workers who deal with solvents could get hearing examinations on a regular basis and that would really help. These hearing examinations would be able to detect the very earliest indications of hearing loss, and workers could respond accordingly.

You Have to Work

Most suggestions for safeguarding your hearing from these specific organic substances include controlling your exposure and also regular hearing examinations. But in order for that recommendation to be practical, you need to be informed of the dangers first. When the dangers are in plain sight, it’s not that hard. It’s obvious that you have to take safeguards against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud noises. But when the danger is not visible as is the case for the millions of people who work with organic solvents, solutions can be more difficult to sell. Luckily, ongoing research is assisting both employers and employees 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 smart plan to get your hearing checked by a hearing specialist.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.