Sometimes it’s easy to identify dangers to your ears: a loud jet engine beside your ears or the bellowing machinery on the floor of a factory. When the hazards are intuitive and logical, it’s easy to convince people to take practical solutions (which normally include wearing earplugs or earmuffs). But what if there was an organic compound that was just as harmful for your hearing as excessive noise? After all, if something is organic, doesn’t that necessarily mean it’s good for you? How can something that’s organic be just as bad for your ears as loud noise?
An Organic Substance You Wouldn’t Want to Eat
To clarify, these organic substances are not something you can pick up 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, there’s a strong chance that a group of chemicals known as organic solvents can damage your hearing even if exposure is limited and minimal. It’s important to note that, in this situation, organic doesn’t make reference to the type of label you find on fruit in the grocery store. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is utilized by marketers to make consumers think a product isn’t harmful for them. When food is labeled as organic, it means that particular growing methods are used to keep food free of artificial contaminants. The word organic, when related to solvents, is a term used in chemistry. Within the discipline of chemistry, the term organic refers to any chemicals and compounds that consist of bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can produce all kinds of distinctive molecules and, therefore, a wide variety 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 working with organic solvents.
Organic Solvents, Where do You Come Across Them?
Some of the following products contain organic solvents:
- Adhesives and glue
- Cleaning products
- Degreasing agents
- Varnishes and paints
You get it. So, the question suddenly becomes, will painting (or even cleaning) your bathroom harm your hearing?
Hazard Associated With Organic Solvents
The more you’re subjected to these substances, based on current research, the higher the corresponding risks. This means that you’ll probably be fine while you clean your kitchen. The biggest risk is to individuals with the highest degree of contact, in other words, factory workers who develop or use 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 revealed this to be true. Hearing loss in the mid frequency range can be affected when the tiny hair cells of the ear are damaged by solvents. The issue is that many businesses are not aware of the ototoxicity of these solvents. These hazards are known even less by workers. So those employees don’t have consistent protocols to safeguard them. All workers who handle solvents could get hearing examinations regularly and that would be really helpful. These workers could get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be discovered in its beginning stages.
You Can’t Just Quit Your Job
Most recommendations for protecting your hearing from these specific organic substances include managing your exposure and also routine hearing screenings. But in order for that advice to be effective, you need to be informed of the dangers first. It’s easy when the hazards are plain to see. It’s obvious that you should take safeguards to protect against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud noises. But it’s not so easy to convince employers to take precautions when there is an invisible hazard. Fortunately, as specialists sound more alarms, employees and employers are moving to make their places of work a little bit less dangerous for everyone. Some of the best advice would be to wear a mask and work in a well ventilated spot. It would also be a good plan to get your ears examined by a hearing care specialist.