“Organic” Isn’t Necessarily Good For You

Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

Sometimes it’s easy to identify hazards to your hearing: a roaring jet engine or loud equipment. When the dangers are intuitive and logical, it’s easy to convince people to take pragmatic solutions (which usually include using earplugs or earmuffs). But what if your ears could be damaged by an organic compound? After all, just because something is organic, doesn’t that mean it’s good for you? How can something that’s organic be just as bad for your hearing as loud noise?

You Might Not Want to Eat This Organic Substance

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 ears even with minimal exposure. It’s important to note that, in this situation, organic does not mean the sort of label you find on fruit in the supermarket. The truth is, marketers make use of the positive associations we have with the word “organic” to sell us products with the suggestion that it’s actually good for you (or at least not bad for you). The word organic, when pertaining to food signifies that the growers didn’t employ certain chemicals. When we mention organic solvents, the term organic is chemistry-related. Within the discipline of chemistry, the word organic represents any chemicals and compounds that have bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can generate all kinds of distinctive molecules and, consequently, a wide variety of different useful chemicals. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t potentially dangerous. Each year, millions of workers are exposed to the dangers of hearing loss by working with organic solvents.

Where do You Come Across Organic Solvents?

Some of the following items have organic solvents:

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

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

Organic Solvents And The Hazards Associated With Them

The more you’re subjected to these substances, according to recent research, the higher the corresponding risks. This means that you’ll probably be fine while you clean your house. The biggest risk is experienced by people with the most prolonged contact, in other words, factory workers who develop or make use of organic solvents on an industrial scale. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been shown to be connected to exposure to organic substances. Lab tests that utilized animals, in addition to surveys of people, have both shown this to be true. Hearing loss in the mid frequency range can be impacted when the tiny hair cells in the ear are damaged by solvents. The problem is that many companies are not aware of the ototoxicity of these compounds. These hazards are even less recognized by workers. So there are insufficient standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those employees. One thing that may really help, for instance, would be standardized hearing exams for all workers who deal with organic compounds on a regular basis. These workers would be able to get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be identified in its beginning stages.

You Need to go to Work

Periodic Hearing exams and limiting your exposure to these solvents are the most frequent suggestions. But first, you need to be mindful of the dangers before you can follow that advice. When the hazards are in plain sight, it’s not that hard. It’s obvious that you should take safeguards to protect against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud noises. But it’s not so easy to convince employers to take safety measures when there is an invisible hazard. Thankfully, as specialists raise more alarms, employers and employees alike are moving to make their work environments a little bit less dangerous for everyone. Some of the best advice would be to use a mask and work in a well ventilated area. Getting your hearing checked by a hearing expert is also a practical idea.

The content of this blog is the intellectual property of MedPB.com and is reprinted here with permission.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive a personalized free hearing test and hearing loss consultation, call today to set up an appointment.