At times the hazards to your ears are obvious: the roaring jet engine beside your ears or the bellowing machines on the floor of a factory. When the dangers are intuitive and logical, it’s easy to get people on board with practical solutions (which commonly include wearing earmuffs or earplugs). But what if your ears could be damaged by an organic compound? After all, if something is organic, doesn’t that necessarily mean it’s healthy for you? How can something that’s organic be just as bad for your ears as loud noise?
You Probably Won’t Want to Eat This Organic Substance
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 collection of chemicals called organic solvents can harm your hearing even if exposure is minimal and limited. To be clear, the sort of organic label you see on fruit in the supermarket is totally different. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is used by marketers to make consumers presume a product isn’t harmful for them. When food is designated as organic, it means that certain growing practices are used to keep food free of artificial impurities. When we talk about organic solvents, the word organic is chemistry-related. In the discipline of chemistry, the word organic describes any compounds and chemicals that consist of bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can create all varieties of distinctive molecules and, therefore, a large number of different useful chemicals. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t potentially harmful. Millions of workers each year handle organic solvents and they’re often exposed to the risks of hearing loss as they do so.
Organic Solvents, Where do You Come Across Them?
Organic solvents are used in some of the following items:
- Adhesives and glue
- Cleaning supplies
- Degreasing chemicals
- Paints and varnishes
You get it. So, this is the question, will your hearing be harmed by painting or even cleaning?
Organic Solvents And The Dangers Associated With Them
The more you’re subjected to these substances, based on current research, the higher the corresponding dangers. This means that you’ll probably be okay while you clean your house. It’s the industrial workers who are regularly exposed to organic solvents that have the highest risk. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been demonstrated to be connected to subjection to organic compounds. Lab tests that utilized animals, in addition to surveys of people, have both demonstrated this to be true. Hearing loss in the mid frequency range can be affected when the little hair cells of the ear are damaged by solvents. The problem is that a lot of companies are don’t know about the ototoxicity of these solvents. An even smaller number of workers know about the dangers. So those workers don’t have consistent protocols to protect them. One thing that could really help, for instance, would be standardized hearing exams for all workers who use organic solvents on a regular basis. These workers would be able to get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be identified in its beginning phases.
You Need to go to Work
Periodic Hearing tests and limiting your exposure to these solvents are the most frequent recommendations. But in order for that recommendation to be successful, you need to be aware of the dangers first. When the hazards are obvious, it’s not that hard. No one doubts that loud noises can injure your ears and so precautions to protect your hearing from day-to-day sounds of the factory floor are logical and obvious. But when the danger is invisible as it is for the millions of Americans who work with organic solvents, solutions can be more difficult to sell. Fortunately, as researchers sound more alarms, employers and employees alike are beginning to make their work environments a little bit less dangerous for everyone. For now, it’s a smart strategy to try to use these products in a well-ventilated area and to wear masks. It would also be a practical plan to have your hearing examined by a hearing care specialist.