At times the dangers to your hearing are clear: a roaring jet engine or loud machines. When the hazards are logical and intuitive, it’s easy to convince people to take pragmatic solutions (which commonly include wearing earplugs or earmuffs). 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? But how is possible that your hearing could be damaged by an organic substance?
An Organic Substance You Wouldn’t Want to Eat
To clarify, these organic substances are not something you can get in the produce section of your supermarket nor would you want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, there’s a good chance that a collection of chemicals known as organic solvents can damage your hearing even if exposure is brief and minimal. It’s significant to note that, in this situation, organic doesn’t refer to the sort of label you find on fruit at the grocery store. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is employed by marketers to make people believe a product isn’t harmful for them. When food is designated as organic, it means that particular growing practices are employed to keep food from having artificial contaminants. The term organic, when related to solvents, is a chemistry term. In the field of chemistry, the term organic makes reference to any chemicals and compounds that consist of bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can produce all varieties of unique molecules and, therefore, a large number of different convenient chemicals. But that doesn’t mean they’re not potentially hazardous. Every year, millions of workers are exposed to the hazards of hearing loss by handling organic solvents.
Organic Solvents, Where do You Find Them?
Organic solvents are found in some of the following products:
- Adhesives and glue
- Cleaning products
- Paints and varnishes
- Degreasing elements
You get it. So, the question quickly becomes, will your hearing be harmed by cleaning or painting?
Organic Solvents And The Hazards Related to Them
According to the most recent research out there, the hazards associated with organic solvents generally increase the more you’re exposed to them. This means that you’ll most likely be fine while you clean your bathroom. The biggest risk is experienced by those 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 shown to be associated with exposure to organic compounds. This has been shown both in lab 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 in the ear are injured by solvents. The difficulty is that a lot of businesses are unaware of the ototoxicity of these compounds. An even smaller number of workers are aware of the hazards. So those employees don’t have standardized protocols to safeguard them. One thing that may really help, for instance, would be standardized hearing exams for all workers who deal with organic compounds on a regular basis. These workers would be able to get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be detected in its beginning stages.
You Can’t Just Quit Your Job
Regular Hearing assessments and controlling your exposure to these compounds are the most common recommendations. But first, you need to be mindful of the risks before you can heed that advice. When the hazards are obvious, it’s not that hard. No one doubts that loud noises can harm your hearing and so precautions to protect your hearing from the daily sound of the factory floor are obvious and logical. But when the threat is invisible as is the case for the millions of Americans who work with organic solvents, solutions can be a harder sell. Thankfully, as specialists raise more alarms, employees and employers are starting to make their workplaces a little bit less dangerous for everyone. For now, it’s a good strategy to try to work with these products in a well-ventilated place and to always use a mask. Having your ears checked by a hearing care specialist is also a practical idea.