Sometimes the dangers to your hearing are obvious: the roaring jet engine next to your ears or the screeching machinery on the floor of a factory. When the risks are intuitive and logical, it’s easy to get people on board with practical solutions (which normally include using earmuffs or earplugs). But what if there was an organic substance that was as harmful for your ears as too much noise? After all, if something is organic, doesn’t that necessarily mean it’s good for you? But how is possible that your hearing could be harmed by an organic substance?
An Organic Compound You Don’t Want to Eat
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 strong possibility that a collection of chemicals called organic solvents can injure your hearing even if exposure is minimal and brief. It’s important to note that, in this situation, organic does not make reference to the type of label you find on fruit at the grocery store. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is used by marketers to make people presume a product isn’t harmful for them. When food is designated as organic, it means that particular growing practices are implemented to keep food free of artificial impurities. The word organic, when related to solvents, is a term used in chemistry. In the field of chemistry, the word organic represents any chemicals and compounds that have bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can produce all kinds of unique molecules and, consequently, a wide variety of different useful chemicals. But sometimes they can also be dangerous. Every year, millions of workers are exposed to the risks of hearing loss by handling organic solvents.
Where do You Come Across Organic Solvents?
Organic solvents are used in some of the following items:
- Cleaning products
- Varnishes and paints
- Degreasing agents
- Glues and adhesives
You get the idea. So, here’s the question, will your hearing be damaged by cleaning or painting?
Organic Solvents And The Dangers Related to Them
According to the most current research available, the hazards associated with organic solvents generally increase the more you’re subjected to them. This means that you’ll probably be fine while you clean your kitchen. It’s the industrial laborers who are continuously around organic solvents that are at the highest danger. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been demonstrated to be connected to subjection to organic substances. This has been demonstrated both in lab experiments using animals and in experiential surveys with real people. 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 businesses are unaware of the ototoxicity of these compounds. An even smaller number of workers know about the hazards. So there are an absence of standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those employees. One thing that could really help, for example, would be standardized hearing screening for all workers who use organic solvents on a regular basis. These workers could get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be discovered in its beginning phases.
You Can’t Simply Quit Your Job
Most recommendations for protecting your ears from these particular organic compounds include controlling your exposure coupled with regular hearing screenings. But if you expect that advice to be successful, you have to be mindful of the hazards first. It’s simple when the hazards are plain to see. Everyone recognizes that loud noises can damage your hearing and so taking steps to safeguard your hearing from the daily sound of the factory floor seems obvious and logical. But when the danger is invisible as it is for the millions of Americans who work with organic solvents, solutions can be a harder sell. Fortunately, as researchers raise more alarm bells, employers and employees alike are moving to make their places of work a little bit safer for everyone. In the meantime, it’s a good strategy to try to use these products in a well-ventilated area and to always use a mask. It would also be a smart idea to have your hearing examined by a hearing care professional.