Sometimes it’s easy to recognize risks to your hearing: a roaring jet engine or loud machinery. It’s not hard to persuade people to use ear protection when they recognize that they will be around loud noises. But what if your ears could be harmed by an organic substance? 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 Might Not Want to Eat This Organic Substance
To clarify, these organic compounds are not something you can pick up at the produce section 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 good chance of damaging your ears even with very little exposure. It’s worthwhile to note that, in this case, organic does not mean the type of label you see on fruit at the supermarket. In fact, marketers make use of the positive connections we have with the word “organic” to sell us products with the suggestion it’s good for you (or at the very least not bad for you). The word organic, when pertaining to food signifies that the growers didn’t use particular chemicals. When we mention organic solvents, the word organic is related to chemistry. Within the discipline of chemistry, the word organic represents any chemicals and compounds that have bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can create a significant number of molecules and therefore practical chemicals. But that doesn’t imply they’re not potentially dangerous. Millions of workers every year handle organic solvents and they’re frequently exposed to the hazards of hearing loss while doing so.
Organic Solvents, Where do You Come Across Them?
Some of the following products contain organic solvents:
- Adhesives and glue
- Degreasing elements
- Cleaning supplies
- Varnishes and paints
You get the point. So, the question suddenly becomes, will your hearing be damaged by cleaning or painting?
Organic Solvents And The Dangers Related to Them
The more you’re subjected to these substances, based on recent research, the higher the corresponding dangers. This means that you’ll probably be fine while you clean your kitchen. The biggest risk is to people with the most prolonged contact, in other words, factory workers who develop or make use of organic solvents on an industrial scale. Industrial solvents, most notably, have been well researched and definitively reveal that exposure can result in ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). Lab tests that utilized animals, in addition to surveys of people, have both demonstrated this to be the case. Exposure to the solvents can have a detrimental effect on the outer hair cells of the ear, causing hearing loss in the mid-frequency range. The issue is that a lot of companies are unaware of the ototoxicity of these compounds. Even fewer workers are aware of the dangers. So those employees don’t have standardized protocols to protect them. One thing that may really help, for instance, would be standardized hearing screening for all workers who use organic solvents on a consistent basis. These workers would be able to get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be discovered in its beginning phases.
You Need to Work
Regular Hearing exams and limiting your exposure to these compounds are the most frequent recommendations. But first, you have to be conscious of the dangers before you can follow that advice. When the risks are in plain sight, it’s not that hard. Everyone recognizes that loud noises can injure your ears and so taking steps to safeguard your ears from the daily sound of the factory floor are obvious and logical. But when the danger is not visible as is the case for the millions of Us citizens who work with organic solvents, solutions can be a harder sell. Fortunately, as specialists sound more alarms, employees and employers are moving to make their places of work a little bit less dangerous for everyone. For now, it’s a smart strategy to only work with these products in a well-ventilated area and to wear masks. Getting your hearing tested by a hearing expert is also a smart idea.