At times the dangers to your ears are obvious: the roaring jet engine beside your ears or the screeching machines on the factory floor. When the hazards are logical and intuitive, it’s easy to convince people to take pragmatic solutions (which usually include using earplugs or earmuffs). But what if your ears could be harmed by an organic substance? Simply because something is organic doesn’t always mean it’s good for you. But how is possible that your ears could be damaged by an organic substance?
An Organic Substance You Don’t Want to Eat
To clarify, these organic substances are not something you can get in the produce section of your supermarket nor would you want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, there’s a good possibility that a group of chemicals called organic solvents can damage your hearing even if exposure is brief and minimal. To be certain, the type of organic label you find on fruit in the grocery store is entirely different. In reality, the word “organic” is used by marketers to make people presume a product isn’t harmful for them. The term organic, when related to food signifies that the growers didn’t employ certain chemicals. The term organic, when associated with solvents, is a chemistry term. Within the discipline of chemistry, the term organic describes any compounds and chemicals that have bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can generate all varieties of distinctive molecules and, therefore, a wide variety of different convenient chemicals. But that doesn’t guarantee they’re not potentially harmful. Millions of workers every year handle organic solvents and they’re often exposed to the risks of hearing loss while doing so.
Organic Solvents, Where do You Come Across Them?
Organic solvents are found in some of the following items:
- Degreasing chemicals
- Adhesives and glue
- Cleaning products
- Paints and varnishes
You get the idea. So, the question quickly becomes, will painting (or even cleaning) your living room damage your hearing?
Hazard Related to Organic Solvents
According to the most current research out there, the dangers associated with organic solvents tend to increase the more you’re exposed to them. So when you clean your home you will most likely be ok. It’s the industrial workers who are continuously exposed to organic solvents that have the highest danger. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been shown to be connected to exposure to organic compounds. Lab tests that utilized animals, as well as surveys of people, have both demonstrated this to be the case. Subjection to the solvents can have a detrimental impact on the outer hair cells of the ear, leading to hearing loss in the mid-frequency range. Regretfully, the ototoxicity of these solvents isn’t well recognized by company owners. These risks are known even less by workers. So there are an absence of standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those employees. One thing that could really help, for instance, would be standardized hearing tests for all workers who use 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 Just Quit Your Job
Regular Hearing exams and limiting your exposure to these solvents are the most common recommendations. But first, you need to be mindful of the dangers before you can heed that advice. It’s straight forward when the hazards are well known. It’s obvious that you should take precautions against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud sounds. But it isn’t so easy to convince employers to take safety measures when there is an invisible threat. Thankfully, as specialists sound more alarms, employers and employees alike are moving to make their work environments a little bit safer for everyone. Some of the most practical advice would be to use a mask and work in a well ventilated area. Having your hearing tested by a hearing care professional is also a smart idea.