Sometimes it’s easy to recognize dangers to your ears: the roaring jet engine beside your ears or the screeching equipment on the floor of a factory. When the hazards are intuitive and logical, it’s easy to convince people to take practical solutions (which usually include using earmuffs or earplugs). But what if your ears could be harmed by an organic compound? After all, just because something is organic, doesn’t that mean it’s healthy for you? How could something that’s organic be just as bad for your ears 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, chemicals known as organic solvents have a strong chance of damaging your hearing even with minimal exposure. It’s significant to note that, in this case, organic doesn’t refer to the sort of label you find on fruit at the supermarket. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is used by marketers to make people think a product is good for them. When food is designated as organic, it means that particular growing methods are employed to keep food free of artificial impurities. When we mention organic solvents, the word organic is related to chemistry. In the discipline of chemistry, the term organic describes any chemicals and compounds that consist of bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can generate a high number of molecules and consequently practical chemicals. But that doesn’t mean they’re not potentially hazardous. Each year, millions of workers are exposed to the risks of hearing loss by handling organic solvents.
Where do You Come Across Organic Solvents?
Organic solvents are used in some of the following products:
- Degreasing elements
- Cleaning supplies
- Varnishes and paints
- Adhesives and glue
You get the idea. So, here’s the question, will painting (or even cleaning) your living room harm your hearing?
Organic Solvents And The Hazards Related to Them
Based on the most recent research available, the dangers related to organic solvents tend to increase the more you’re subjected to them. So when you clean your home you will probably be fine. It’s the industrial laborers who are continuously exposed to organic solvents that have the highest risk. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been shown to be connected to subjection to organic compounds. This has been demonstrated both in laboratory experiments involving animals and in experiential surveys with real people. Hearing loss in the mid frequency range can be affected when the little hair cells of the ear are injured by solvents. The issue is that many businesses are unaware of the ototoxicity of these solvents. Even fewer workers know about the hazards. So there are insufficient standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those workers. One thing that could really help, for example, would be standardized hearing tests for all workers who handle organic solvents on a regular basis. These workers could get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be identified in its beginning stages.
You Need to Work
Most guidelines for safeguarding your hearing from these particular organic substances include managing your exposure along with routine hearing examinations. But in order for that advice to be effective, you need to be aware of the risks first. It’s easy when the risks are well known. It’s obvious that you have to take safeguards to protect against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud noises. But it isn’t so easy to convince employers to take precautions when there is an invisible hazard. Fortunately, as specialists sound more alarms, employers and employees alike are starting to make their work environments a little bit safer for everyone. For the time being, it’s a smart strategy to only work with these products in a well-ventilated area and to wear masks. Getting your ears evaluated by a hearing expert is also a good idea.