Sometimes it’s easy to recognize hazards to your ears: the roaring jet engine beside your ears or the screeching equipment on the floor of a factory. It’s not hard to persuade people to protect their ears when they know they will be near loud sounds. But what if there was an organic substance that was just as bad for your hearing as excessive noise? After all, just because something is organic, doesn’t that mean it’s good for you? But how is possible that your ears could be damaged by an organic substance?
You Might Not Want to Eat This Organic Compound
To clarify, these organic compounds are not something you can pick up in the produce department of your grocery store nor would you want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, chemicals called organic solvents have a strong possibility of harming your ears even with minimal exposure. It’s significant to note that, in this case, organic doesn’t mean the type of label you see on fruit at the supermarket. In reality, the word “organic” is used by marketers to make people believe a product is good for them. When food is designated as organic, it means that specific growing methods are used to keep food free of artificial contaminants. The word organic, when associated with solvents, is a chemistry term. In the discipline of chemistry, the word organic makes reference to any chemicals and compounds that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can generate a significant number of molecules and consequently practical chemicals. But that doesn’t imply they aren’t potentially dangerous. Each 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 used in some of the following items:
- Paints and varnishes
- Cleaning supplies
- Adhesives and glue
- Degreasing agents
You get it. So, the question quickly becomes, will your hearing be harmed by painting or even cleaning?
Risks Related to Organic Solvents
According to the most recent research out there, the dangers related to organic solvents tend to increase the more you’re subjected to them. So when you clean your house you will most likely be ok. The biggest risk is experienced by those with the highest degree of contact, in other words, factory workers who develop or utilize organic solvents on a commercial scale. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been shown to be connected to exposure to organic compounds. Lab tests that utilized animals, along with surveys of people, have both demonstrated this to be the case. Loss of hearing in the mid frequency range can be impacted when the little hair cells of the ear are injured by solvents. Unfortunately, the ototoxicity of these compounds isn’t well recognized by business owners. Even fewer workers know about the risks. So those workers don’t have standardized protocols to safeguard them. All workers who deal with solvents could get hearing tests regularly and that would really help. These hearing screenings would detect the very earliest indications of hearing loss, and workers would be able to react appropriately.
You Can’t Just Quit Your Job
Regular Hearing tests and limiting your exposure to these compounds are the most common recommendations. But first, you need to be conscious of the risks before you can follow that advice. It’s simple when the hazards are well known. It’s obvious that you have to take precautions against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud noises. But it isn’t so straight forward to convince employers to take safety measures when there is an invisible hazard. Luckily, ongoing research is helping both employers and employees take a safer approach. 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 specialist.