Sometimes it’s easy to recognize hazards to your hearing: loud machinery or a roaring jet engine. It’s not hard to persuade people to use ear protection when they recognize that they will be near loud noises. But what if your ears could be harmed by an organic compound? After all, just because something is organic, doesn’t that necessarily 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 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, chemicals known as organic solvents have a good chance of injuring your hearing even with minimal exposure. It’s important to note that, in this case, organic doesn’t make reference to the type of label you see on fruit at the grocery store. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is employed by marketers to make people believe a product is good for them. The word organic, when pertaining to food signifies that the growers didn’t employ certain chemicals. The term organic, when associated with solvents, is a term used in chemistry. Within the field of chemistry, the word organic represents any compounds and chemicals that have bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can produce a large number of molecules and consequently practical chemicals. But at times they can also be dangerous. Millions of workers each year work with organic solvents and they’re regularly exposed to the risks of hearing loss as they do so.
Where do You Find Organic Solvents?
Organic solvents are used in some of the following items:
- Paints and varnishes
- Degreasing agents
- Adhesives and glue
- Cleaning products
You get the idea. So, here’s the question, will your hearing be harmed by painting or even cleaning?
Dangers Associated With Organic Solvents
The more you’re subjected to these substances, based on recent research, the higher the associated risks. This means that you’ll probably be okay while you clean your house. The biggest risk is to people with the highest degree of contact, in other words, factory workers who develop or use organic solvents on an industrial scale. Industrial solvents, most notably, have been well studied and definitively demonstrate that exposure can lead to ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). Lab tests that utilized animals, as well as surveys of people, have both demonstrated this to be true. Subjection to the solvents can have a detrimental effect on the outer hair cells of the ear, resulting in hearing loss in the mid-frequency range. Regretfully, the ototoxicity of these solvents isn’t widely recognized by company owners. An even smaller number of workers are aware of the dangers. So those employees don’t have consistent protocols to safeguard them. All workers who deal with solvents could have hearing examinations regularly and that would be really helpful. These workers could get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be detected in its beginning phases.
You Can’t Just Quit Your Job
Regular Hearing examinations and controlling your exposure to these compounds are the most common suggestions. But if you expect that recommendation to be practical, you have to be aware of the hazards first. It’s not a problem when the hazards are plain to see. Everyone recognizes that loud noises can damage your hearing and so taking steps to protect your ears from day-to-day sounds of the factory floor seems logical and obvious. But it’s not so straight forward to persuade employers to take precautions when there is an invisible hazard. Thankfully, as researchers raise more alarm bells, employers and employees alike are moving to make their work environments a little bit safer for everyone. Some of the best advice would be to wear a mask and work in a well ventilated place. Getting your ears checked by a hearing expert is also a smart idea.