Sometimes the dangers to your hearing are obvious: the roaring jet engine next to your ears or the screeching machines on the floor of a factory. It’s not difficult to convince people to protect their ears when they know they will be near loud sounds. But what if your ears could be damaged by an organic substance? Simply because something is organic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you. How can something that’s organic be just as bad for your ears as loud noise?
An Organic Substance You Don’t Want to Eat
To clarify, these organic compounds are not something you can get in the produce department of your grocery store and you wouldn’t want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, chemicals called organic solvents have a strong possibility of injuring your hearing even with very little exposure. To be clear, the type of organic label you see on fruit in the supermarket is entirely different. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is utilized by marketers to make consumers believe a product isn’t harmful for them. When food is labeled as organic, it means that specific growing practices are employed to keep food free of artificial contaminants. When we mention organic solvents, the term organic is related to chemistry. In the field of chemistry, the word organic describes any compounds and chemicals that have bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can create all varieties of distinctive molecules and, consequently, a wide variety of different useful chemicals. But sometimes they can also be harmful. Millions of workers every year work with organic solvents and they’re often exposed to the hazards of hearing loss while doing so.
Organic Solvents, Where do You Come Across Them?
Organic solvents are found in some of the following products:
- Cleaning products
- Paints and varnishes
- Glues and adhesives
- Degreasing chemicals
You get it. So, here’s the question, will your hearing be harmed by painting or even cleaning?
Organic Solvents And The Hazards Associated With Them
The more you’re subjected to these substances, based on current research, the higher the associated hazard. This means that you’ll probably be okay while you clean your bathroom. It’s the industrial workers who are continuously exposed to organic solvents that have the highest danger. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been shown to be linked to subjection to organic substances. This has been demonstrated both in lab experiments involving animals and in experiential surveys with real people. Loss of hearing in the mid frequency range can be affected when the little hair cells in the ear are damaged by solvents. Unfortunately, the ototoxicity of these solvents isn’t well recognized by company owners. An even smaller number of workers know about the risks. So those workers don’t have standardized protocols to protect them. All workers who handle solvents could have hearing screenings on a regular basis and that would be really helpful. These hearing examinations would be able to detect the very earliest indications of hearing loss, and workers could react accordingly.
You Can’t Simply Quit Your Job
Routine Hearing assessments and controlling your exposure to these solvents are the most common recommendations. But first, you need to be aware of the hazards before you can follow that advice. It’s simple when the risks are plain to see. No one doubts that loud noises can damage your hearing and so precautions to protect your ears from day-to-day sounds of the factory floor are obvious and logical. But when the danger is invisible as is the case for the millions of Us citizens who work with organic solvents, solutions can be more difficult to sell. Luckily, continuing research is helping both employers and employees take a safer path. Some of the most practical advice would be to wear a mask and work in a well ventilated place. It would also be a good idea to have your hearing examined by a hearing care specialist.