At times the dangers to your ears are clear: the roaring jet engine beside your ears or the bellowing equipment on the floor of a factory. When the risks are intuitive and logical, it’s easy to convince people to take practical solutions (which normally include using earplugs or earmuffs). But what if your hearing could be damaged by an organic compound? After all, if something is organic, doesn’t that mean it’s healthy for you? How can something that’s organic be just as bad for your ears as loud noise?
You May Not 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, chemicals called organic solvents have a good possibility of injuring your hearing even with minimal exposure. It’s worthwhile to note that, in this situation, organic doesn’t make reference to the type of label you see on fruit in the grocery store. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is utilized by marketers to make consumers believe a product is good for them. When food is labeled as organic, it means that certain growing methods are employed to keep food from having artificial impurities. When we mention organic solvents, the word organic is related to chemistry. In the field of chemistry, the term organic makes reference to any compounds and chemicals that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can create all varieties of different molecules and, therefore, a wide range of different convenient chemicals. But at times they can also be harmful. 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 used in some of the following products:
- Cleaning products
- Glues and adhesives
- Paints and varnishes
- Degreasing agents
You get the idea. So, the question quickly becomes, will painting (or even cleaning) your living room harm your hearing?
Organic Solvents And The Dangers Related to Them
The more you’re subjected to these substances, according to recent research, the higher the associated risks. So when you clean your home you will probably be fine. It’s the industrial laborers who are regularly around organic solvents that are at the highest risk. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been shown to be linked to exposure to organic substances. Lab tests that used animals, in addition to surveys of people, have both revealed 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. The difficulty is that a lot of companies are don’t know about the ototoxicity of these solvents. These risks are known even less by workers. So there are an absence of standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those workers. All workers who deal with solvents could have hearing screenings on a regular basis and that would be really helpful. These hearing tests would be able to detect the very earliest signs of hearing loss, and workers could react accordingly.
You Have to Work
Regular Hearing assessments and limiting your exposure to these compounds are the most frequent recommendations. But if you expect that recommendation to be effective, you have to be informed of the dangers first. It’s simple when the dangers are plain to see. Everyone recognizes that loud noises can damage your hearing and so precautions to safeguard your hearing from day-to-day sounds of the factory floor seems obvious and logical. But when the danger is invisible as is the case for the millions of Americans who work with organic solvents, solutions can be more difficult to sell. The good news is, continuing research is assisting both employees and employers take a safer approach. For now, it’s a good plan to try to work with these products in a well-ventilated place and to wear masks. Having your hearing examined by a hearing care professional is also a practical idea.