At times the dangers to your ears are obvious: loud machines or a roaring jet engine. When the dangers are logical and intuitive, it’s easy to convince people to take pragmatic solutions (which normally include wearing earmuffs or earplugs). But what if there was an organic compound that was just as harmful for your ears as too much noise? After all, if something is organic, doesn’t that mean it’s good for you? But how is possible that your hearing could be harmed by an organic substance?
You Probably Won’t Want to Eat This Organic Compound
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 known as organic solvents can harm your hearing even if exposure is minimal and brief. It’s important to note that, in this situation, organic does not refer to the sort of label you find on fruit at the supermarket. In reality, the word “organic” is used by marketers to make consumers believe a product is good for them. When food is designated as organic, it means that certain growing methods are implemented to keep food from having artificial pollutants. When we talk about organic solvents, the word organic is chemistry-related. Within the discipline of chemistry, the word organic represents any compounds and chemicals that have bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can create a high number of molecules and therefore worthwhile chemicals. But that doesn’t imply they aren’t potentially dangerous. Millions of workers every year work with organic solvents and they’re frequently exposed to the risks of hearing loss while doing so.
Where do You Find Organic Solvents?
Organic solvents are found in some of the following products:
- Degreasing chemicals
- Paints and varnishes
- Cleaning supplies
- Adhesives and glue
You get the idea. 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 exposed to these substances, based on current research, the higher the corresponding hazard. So when you clean your house you will probably be ok. It’s the industrial laborers who are continuously exposed to organic solvents that have the highest risk. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been shown to be associated with exposure to organic compounds. Lab tests that used animals, as well as surveys of people, have both demonstrated this to be true. Hearing loss in the mid frequency range can be impacted when the little hair cells of the ear are injured by solvents. The issue is that a lot of businesses are not aware of the ototoxicity of these solvents. These risks are known even less by workers. So there are insufficient standardized protocols to safeguard the hearing of those workers. One thing that could really help, for instance, would be standardized hearing tests for all workers who use organic solvents on a consistent basis. These workers would be able to get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be discovered in its beginning phases.
You Can’t Simply Quit Your Job
Regular Hearing exams and limiting your exposure to these compounds are the most frequent recommendations. But if you want that recommendation to be practical, you have to be informed of the risks first. It’s simple when the dangers are plain to see. It’s obvious that you should take precautions to protect against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud noises. But it’s not so easy to persuade employers to take safety measures when there is an invisible hazard. Fortunately, as researchers raise more alarm bells, employees and employers are starting to make their places of work a little bit less dangerous for everyone. In the meantime, it’s a smart plan to try to use these products in a well-ventilated place and to always wear a mask. It would also be a good idea to have your hearing looked at by a hearing specialist.