Sometimes the dangers to your hearing are obvious: a roaring jet engine or loud machines. easy to convince people to use ear protection when they recognize that they will be around loud noises. But what if there was an organic substance that was just as harmful for your hearing as excessive noise? Simply because something is organic doesn’t always mean it’s healthy for you. But how is possible that your ears could be damaged by an organic substance?
An Organic Compound You Wouldn’t Want to Eat
To clarify, these organic compounds are not something you can pick up in the produce section of your supermarket and you wouldn’t want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, chemicals known as organic solvents have a good possibility of harming your hearing even with minimal exposure. It’s worthwhile to note that, in this situation, organic does not make reference to the type of label you see on fruit at the supermarket. In fact, marketers use the positive connections we have with the word “organic” to sell us products with the suggestion that it’s good for you (or at the very least not bad for you). When food is labeled as organic, it means that specific growing methods are implemented to keep food free of artificial pollutants. When we talk about organic solvents, the term organic is chemistry-related. Within the field of chemistry, the term organic refers to any chemicals and compounds that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can create all varieties of different molecules and, therefore, a large number of different useful chemicals. But sometimes they can also be hazardous. Each year, millions of workers are exposed to the risks of hearing loss by working with organic solvents.
Where do You Come Across Organic Solvents?
Some of the following items have organic solvents:
- Degreasing elements
- Cleaning products
- Adhesives and glue
- Varnishes and paints
You get the idea. So, the question quickly becomes, will your hearing be damaged by painting or even cleaning?
Organic Solvents And The Dangers Related to Them
Based on the most recent research available, the hazards associated with organic solvents tend to increase the more you’re exposed to them. So when you clean your house you will most likely be okay. The biggest risk is to those with the highest degree of contact, in other words, factory workers who produce or make use of organic solvents on an industrial scale. Industrial solvents, in particular, have been well investigated and definitively reveal that exposure can result in ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). This has been shown both in laboratory experiments involving animals and in experiential surveys involving actual people. Exposure to the solvents can have a negative effect on the outer hair cells of the ear, leading to loss of hearing in the mid-frequency range. The difficulty is that a lot of businesses are don’t know about the ototoxicity of these solvents. Even fewer workers are aware of the hazards. So those employees don’t have standardized protocols to safeguard them. One thing that could really help, for example, would be standardized hearing screening for all workers who use organic compounds on a consistent basis. These workers could get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be discovered in its beginning stages.
You Can’t Simply Quit Your Job
Regular Hearing examinations and limiting your exposure to these compounds are the most frequent recommendations. But first, you need to be mindful of the hazards before you can heed that advice. When the hazards are in plain sight, it’s not that hard. It’s obvious that you need to take safeguards against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud sounds. But when the threat is invisible as is the case for the millions of Us citizens who work with organic solvents, solutions can be more difficult to sell. Thankfully, as researchers sound more alarm bells, employers and employees alike are moving to make their places of work a little bit less dangerous for everyone. Some of the most practical advice would be to use a mask and work in a well ventilated place. It would also be a practical idea to get your hearing examined by a hearing care professional.