Sometimes it’s easy to identify dangers to your ears: the roaring jet engine beside your ears or the bellowing equipment on the floor of a factory. When the hazards are intuitive and logical, it’s easy to get people on board with pragmatic solutions (which commonly include using earmuffs or earplugs). But what if your hearing could be harmed by an organic compound? Just because something is organic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you. How could something that’s organic be just as bad for your ears as loud noise?
You Probably Won’t Want to Eat This Organic Substance
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, there’s a strong chance that a group of chemicals known as organic solvents can injure your hearing even if exposure is brief and minimal. To be certain, the sort of organic label you find on fruit in the supermarket is entirely different. The truth is, marketers make use of the positive connections we have with the word “organic” to sell us products with the suggestion that it’s actually good for you (or at the very least not bad for you). The term organic, when pertaining to food signifies that the growers didn’t use particular chemicals. The term organic, when associated with solvents, is a term used in chemistry. In the field of chemistry, the term organic makes reference to any chemicals and compounds that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can generate a high number of molecules and therefore practical chemicals. But at times they can also be unsafe. Millions of workers each year work with organic solvents and they’re regularly exposed to the dangers of hearing loss while doing so.
Where do You Come Across Organic Solvents?
Organic solvents are used in some of the following products:
- Cleaning supplies
- Degreasing elements
- Varnishes and paints
- Glues and adhesives
You get the point. So, the question quickly becomes, will painting (or even cleaning) your living room damage your hearing?
Dangers Associated With Organic Solvents
The more you’re subjected to these substances, based on recent research, the higher the associated dangers. So when you clean your house you will probably be fine. The most potent risk is experienced by individuals with the most prolonged contact, in other words, factory workers who develop or make use of organic solvents on an industrial scale. Industrial solvents, in particular, have been well studied and definitively demonstrate that exposure can result in ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). This has been shown both in lab experiments involving animals and in experiential surveys with real people. Loss of hearing in the mid frequency range can be affected when the tiny hair cells in the ear are injured by solvents. Regretfully, the ototoxicity of these compounds isn’t well known by company owners. These hazards are known even less by workers. So there are insufficient standardized protocols to safeguard the hearing of those employees. All workers who deal with solvents could have hearing screenings on a regular basis and that would be really helpful. These workers would be able to get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be detected in its beginning stages.
You Have to Work
Regular Hearing tests and controlling your exposure to these solvents are the most common suggestions. But first, you need to be mindful of the dangers before you can follow that advice. When the hazards are in plain sight, it’s not that hard. Everyone recognizes that loud noises can injure your hearing and so precautions to safeguard your hearing from day-to-day sounds of the factory floor are logical and obvious. But when the threat is invisible as is the case for the millions of Americans who work with organic solvents, solutions can be more difficult to sell. Luckily, continuing research is helping both employers and employees take a safer path. For the time being, it’s a good strategy to only work with these products in a well-ventilated area and to wear masks. It would also be a smart idea to get your ears looked at by a hearing care specialist.