At times the hazards to your ears are clear: loud equipment or a roaring jet engine. When the hazards are intuitive and logical, it’s easy to get people on board with pragmatic solutions (which normally include wearing earplugs or earmuffs). But what if there was an organic substance that was as bad for your hearing as excessive noise? After all, just because something is organic, doesn’t that mean it’s healthy for you? But how is possible that your hearing could be damaged by an organic substance?
You May Not Want to Eat This Organic Substance
To clarify, these organic substances are not something you can get at the produce department of your supermarket nor would you want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, chemicals known as organic solvents have a strong chance of harming your hearing even with very little exposure. It’s significant to note that, in this case, organic doesn’t mean the sort of label you find on fruit in the supermarket. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is used by marketers to make consumers presume a product is good for them. The word organic, when associated with food indicates that the growers didn’t employ particular chemicals. The term organic, when associated with solvents, is a term used in chemistry. In the discipline of chemistry, the term organic represents any compounds and chemicals that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can produce a large number of molecules and therefore useful chemicals. But at times they can also be hazardous. Millions of workers every year work with organic solvents and they’re regularly exposed to the hazards of hearing loss while doing so.
Organic Solvents, Where do You Come Across Them?
Organic solvents are found in some of the following products:
- Adhesives and glue
- Varnishes and paints
- Cleaning products
- Degreasing agents
You get it. So, the question quickly becomes, will painting (or even cleaning) your living room harm your hearing?
Organic Solvents And The Dangers Related to Them
Based on the most current research out there, the dangers related to organic solvents generally increase the more you’re subjected to them. This means that you’ll most likely be okay while you clean your kitchen. 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 a commercial scale. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been demonstrated to be linked to exposure to organic compounds. This has been demonstrated both in lab experiments using animals and in experiential surveys involving actual people. Loss of hearing in the mid frequency range can be impacted when the tiny hair cells in the ear are damaged by solvents. The issue is that many businesses are don’t know about the ototoxicity of these solvents. Even fewer workers know about the dangers. So there are insufficient standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those employees. One thing that may really help, for instance, would be standardized hearing screening for all workers who deal with organic compounds on a regular basis. These hearing tests would be able to detect the very earliest indications of hearing loss, and workers could react appropriately.
You Can’t Simply Quit Your Job
Most recommendations for protecting your ears from these particular organic substances include managing your exposure as well as periodic hearing examinations. But first, you need to be mindful of the risks before you can heed that advice. It’s straight forward when the dangers are well known. Everyone recognizes that loud noises can damage your hearing and so taking steps to safeguard your ears 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 Us citizens who work with organic solvents, solutions can be a harder sell. The good news is, ongoing research is assisting both employees and employers take a safer path. 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 plan to have your ears looked at by a hearing specialist.