Sometimes the hazards to your ears are clear: a roaring jet engine or loud equipment. When the hazards are intuitive and logical, it’s easy to get people on board with practical solutions (which normally include wearing earmuffs or earplugs). But what if there was an organic compound that was as bad for your hearing as too much noise? Simply because something is organic doesn’t always mean it’s good for you. But how is possible that your ears could be damaged 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, chemicals known as organic solvents have a good chance of damaging your hearing even with minimal exposure. To be certain, the type of organic label you see on fruit in the supermarket is totally different. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is utilized by marketers to make consumers think a product isn’t harmful for them. When food is designated as organic, it means that certain growing practices are implemented to keep food from having artificial pollutants. The term organic, when related to solvents, is a chemistry term. Within the discipline of chemistry, the word organic refers to any chemicals and compounds that have bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can produce all kinds of unique molecules and, therefore, a large number of different useful chemicals. But at times they can also be harmful. Millions of workers each year handle organic solvents and they’re frequently exposed to the dangers of hearing loss as they do so.
Where do You Find Organic Solvents?
Some of the following products contain organic solvents:
- Degreasing agents
- Paints and varnishes
- Cleaning supplies
- Glues and adhesives
You get the point. So, here’s the question, will painting (or even cleaning) your living room harm your hearing?
Organic Solvents And The Risks Associated With Them
The more you’re exposed to these substances, according to current research, the higher the associated hazard. This means that you’ll probably be fine while you clean your kitchen. The most potent risk is experienced by those with the highest degree of contact, in other words, factory workers who produce or utilize organic solvents on a commercial scale. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been shown to be linked to subjection to organic substances. This has been shown both in lab experiments using animals and in experiential surveys involving real people. Hearing loss in the mid frequency range can be impacted when the little hair cells of the ear are injured by solvents. Unfortunately, the ototoxicity of these solvents isn’t well known by business owners. These hazards are known even less by workers. So there are insufficient standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those employees. All workers who deal with solvents could have hearing exams on a regular basis and that would really help. These workers could get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be identified in its beginning phases.
You Have to Work
Most suggestions for protecting your ears from these specific organic substances include controlling your exposure as well as routine hearing tests. But if you expect that advice to be successful, you need to be informed of the risks first. It’s not a problem when the dangers are well known. Everyone recognizes that loud noises can harm your hearing and so taking steps to protect your ears from day-to-day sounds of the factory floor seems logical and obvious. But when the danger is invisible as is the case for the millions of Us citizens who work with organic solvents, solutions can be a harder sell. The good news is, continuing research is helping both employers and employees take a safer approach. Some of the best advice would be to wear a mask and work in a well ventilated spot. Having your hearing checked by a hearing care professional is also a practical idea.