Hear in Edmonton - Edmonton, Alberta

Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

Sometimes it’s easy to discern hazards to your ears: loud equipment or a roaring jet engine. It’s not difficult to convince people to use ear protection when they recognize that they will be near loud noises. But what if there was an organic compound that was just as harmful for your hearing as too much noise? Simply 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?

An Organic Substance You Wouldn’t Want to Eat

To clarify, these organic compounds are not something you can pick up in the produce department of your supermarket and you wouldn’t want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, chemicals called organic solvents have a strong possibility of harming your hearing even with minimal exposure. It’s significant to note that, in this situation, organic doesn’t refer to the kind of label you find on fruit at the grocery store. The truth is, marketers use the positive associations we have with the word “organic” to sell us products with the implication it’s good for you (or at the very least not bad for you). When food is designated as organic, it means that specific growing methods are used to keep food from having artificial impurities. When we mention organic solvents, the word organic is related to chemistry. Within the field of chemistry, the term organic represents any chemicals and compounds that consist of bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can create all kinds of unique molecules and, consequently, a wide variety of different convenient chemicals. But that doesn’t guarantee they aren’t potentially harmful. Each year, millions of workers are exposed to the dangers of hearing loss by handling organic solvents.

Organic Solvents, Where do You Come Across Them?

Some of the following products contain organic solvents:

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

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

Organic Solvents And The Hazards Related to Them

The more you’re subjected to these substances, based on recent research, the higher the corresponding dangers. This means that you’ll most likely be fine while you clean your bathroom. The biggest risk is to individuals with the highest degree of contact, in other words, factory workers who produce or use organic solvents on a commercial scale. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been demonstrated to be connected to subjection to organic compounds. Lab tests that used animals, as well as surveys of people, have both shown this to be the case. Subjection to the solvents can have a negative impact on the outer hair cells of the ear, causing hearing loss in the mid-frequency range. Unfortunately, the ototoxicity of these solvents isn’t well recognized by company owners. These risks are even less recognized by workers. So there are an absence of standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those workers. All workers who handle solvents could get hearing exams regularly and that would be really helpful. These workers could get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be detected in its beginning phases.

You Need to go to Work

Most guidelines for protecting your hearing from these specific organic compounds include managing your exposure along with periodic hearing screenings. But first, you have to be mindful of the risks before you can follow that advice. When the dangers are in plain sight, it’s not that hard. It’s obvious that you have to take precautions to protect against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud sounds. But it isn’t so easy to convince employers to take precautions when there is an invisible threat. Fortunately, as specialists sound more alarms, employees and employers are beginning to make their places of work a little bit safer for everyone. Some of the most practical advice would be to wear a mask and work in a well ventilated place. Having your hearing evaluated by a hearing expert is also a good idea.

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