Sometimes it’s easy to discern dangers to your hearing: the roaring jet engine next to your ears or the bellowing machines on the factory floor. When the hazards are logical and intuitive, it’s easy to get people on board with pragmatic solutions (which commonly include using earmuffs or earplugs). But what if your ears could be harmed by an organic compound? Just because something is organic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy for you. How can something that’s organic be equally as bad for your hearing as loud noise?
An Organic Substance You Wouldn’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 group of chemicals known as organic solvents can damage your hearing even if exposure is brief and minimal. To be clear, the kind of organic label you see on fruit in the grocery store is totally different. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is employed by marketers to make consumers presume a product is good for them. The term organic, when related to food indicates that the growers didn’t utilize particular chemicals. When we talk about organic solvents, the word organic is related to chemistry. In the field of chemistry, the word organic refers to any chemicals and compounds that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can generate all varieties of unique molecules and, therefore, a large number of different useful chemicals. But that doesn’t mean they’re not potentially dangerous. Each year, millions of workers are exposed to the dangers of hearing loss by working with organic solvents.
Organic Solvents, Where do You Find Them?
Some of the following products have organic solvents:
- Degreasing elements
- Cleaning products
- Glues and adhesives
- Paints and varnishes
You get the point. So, this is the question, will your hearing be harmed by painting or even cleaning?
Risks Associated With Organic Solvents
According to the most recent research available, the dangers related to organic solvents generally increase the more you’re subjected to them. This means that you’ll probably be okay while you clean your bathroom. The biggest risk is experienced by people with the most prolonged contact, in other words, factory workers who produce or make use of organic solvents on a commercial scale. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been demonstrated to be connected to exposure to organic compounds. 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 impacted when the tiny hair cells of the ear are injured by solvents. The problem is that a lot of businesses are don’t know about the ototoxicity of these solvents. These dangers are even less recognized by workers. So there are insufficient standardized protocols to safeguard the hearing of those workers. All workers who deal with solvents could have hearing tests regularly and that would be really helpful. These hearing tests would detect the very earliest indications of hearing loss, and workers could react appropriately.
You Can’t Simply Quit Your Job
Most suggestions for safeguarding your hearing from these specific organic compounds include managing your exposure as well as routine hearing screenings. But first, you have to be aware of the risks 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 precautions to protect against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud sounds. But it’s not so straight forward to convince employers to take safety measures when there is an invisible hazard. Luckily, continuing research is assisting both employers and employees take a safer approach. Some of the best advice would be to use a mask and work in a well ventilated spot. Getting your ears examined by a hearing expert is also a smart idea.