Sometimes it can be easy to discern dangers to your ears: loud machinery or a roaring jet engine. When the risks are logical and intuitive, it’s easy to get people on board with practical solutions (which commonly include using earplugs or earmuffs). But what if there was an organic compound that was just as harmful for your hearing as too much noise? After all, just because something is organic, doesn’t that mean it’s good for you? But how is possible that your hearing could be damaged by an organic substance?
You Might Not Want to Eat This Organic Compound
To clarify, these organic substances are not something you can pick up in the produce section of your supermarket and you wouldn’t want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, chemicals known as organic solvents have a good possibility of injuring your ears even with minimal exposure. It’s worthwhile to note that, in this case, organic doesn’t make reference to the sort of label you find on fruit in the supermarket. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is employed by marketers to make consumers believe a product isn’t harmful for them. The word organic, when pertaining to food means that the growers didn’t utilize certain chemicals. When we talk about organic solvents, the word organic is chemistry-related. Within the field of chemistry, the term organic represents any chemicals and compounds that consist of bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can generate a large number of molecules and therefore practical chemicals. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t potentially dangerous. Every year, millions of workers are exposed to the dangers of hearing loss by working with organic solvents.
Organic Solvents, Where do You Come Across Them?
Some of the following items contain organic solvents:
- Glues and adhesives
- Varnishes and paints
- Cleaning products
- Degreasing chemicals
You get it. So, this is the question, will your hearing be damaged by painting or even cleaning?
Dangers Related to Organic Solvents
According to the most current research available, the risks associated with organic solvents tend to increase the more you’re exposed to them. This means that you’ll most likely be okay while you clean your bathroom. The biggest risk is to individuals with the most prolonged contact, in other words, factory workers who produce or make use of organic solvents on an industrial scale. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been demonstrated to be connected to exposure to organic compounds. Lab tests that used animals, in addition to surveys of people, have both revealed this to be true. Exposure to the solvents can have a negative impact on the outer hair cells of the ear, causing hearing loss in the mid-frequency range. The issue is that many businesses are not aware of the ototoxicity of these solvents. These hazards are even less recognized by workers. So there are a lack of standardized protocols to safeguard the hearing of those employees. One thing that may really help, for example, would be standardized hearing exams for all workers who deal with organic compounds on a regular basis. These workers could get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be identified in its beginning stages.
You Have to go to Work
Most recommendations for safeguarding your ears from these particular organic substances include controlling your exposure and also periodic hearing tests. But first, you need to be conscious of the risks before you can heed that advice. It’s not a problem when the hazards are well known. It’s obvious that you should take precautions to protect against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud sounds. But when the threat is invisible as is the case for the millions of Us citizens who work with organic solvents, solutions can be more difficult to sell. The good news is, ongoing research is helping both employers and employees take a safer approach. For now, it’s a good plan to try to use these products in a well-ventilated area and to always use a mask. Having your ears checked by a hearing care specialist is also a practical idea.