Sometimes the hazards to your ears are clear: the roaring jet engine next to your ears or the screeching machines on the floor of a factory. easy to persuade people to protect their ears when they know they will be around loud sounds. But what if your ears could be damaged by an organic compound? After all, just because something is organic, doesn’t that mean it’s good for you? How can something that’s organic be equally as bad for your hearing as loud noise?
An Organic Compound You Wouldn’t Want to Eat
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 good possibility that a collection of chemicals called organic solvents can harm your hearing even if exposure is limited and minimal. It’s worthwhile to note that, in this situation, organic does not mean the kind of label you find on fruit in the supermarket. In reality, the word “organic” is utilized by marketers to make people think a product is good for them. When food is labeled as organic, it means that particular growing practices are employed to keep food free of artificial pollutants. When we mention organic solvents, the word organic is related to chemistry. Within the field of chemistry, the term organic describes any chemicals and compounds that have bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can generate all varieties of different molecules and, consequently, a wide range of different convenient chemicals. But sometimes they can also be harmful. Each year, millions of workers are exposed to the risks of hearing loss by working with organic solvents.
Organic Solvents, Where do You Come Across Them?
Some of the following items contain organic solvents:
- Varnishes and paints
- Cleaning supplies
- Degreasing elements
- Glues and adhesives
You get it. So, the question suddenly becomes, will painting (or even cleaning) your bathroom damage your hearing?
Organic Solvents And The Dangers Associated With Them
Based on the most recent research out there, the risks associated with organic solvents generally increase the more you’re exposed to them. This means that you’ll most likely be okay while you clean your house. It’s the industrial laborers who are constantly around organic solvents that have the highest risk. Industrial solvents, in particular, have been well researched and definitively show that exposure can lead to ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). This has been demonstrated both in laboratory experiments involving animals and in experiential surveys involving actual people. Exposure to the solvents can have a negative effect on the outer hair cells of the ear, causing hearing loss in the mid-frequency range. Regretfully, the ototoxicity of these solvents isn’t widely recognized by company owners. Even fewer workers are aware of the hazards. So those workers don’t have consistent protocols to safeguard them. One thing that may really help, for instance, would be standardized hearing exams for all workers who use organic compounds on a consistent basis. These workers could get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be detected in its beginning phases.
You Can’t Just Quit Your Job
Most guidelines for safeguarding your hearing from these specific organic compounds include managing your exposure and also routine hearing examinations. But first, you have to be aware of the hazards before you can follow that advice. It’s not a problem when the hazards are plain to see. No one doubts that loud noises can damage your hearing and so precautions to safeguard your ears from day-to-day sounds of the factory floor seems logical and obvious. But when the danger is invisible as is the case for the millions of Americans who work with organic solvents, solutions can be a harder sell. Thankfully, as specialists sound more alarms, employees and employers are moving to make their work environments a little bit safer for everyone. In the meantime, it’s a smart strategy to only use these products in a well-ventilated place and to wear masks. Having your ears evaluated by a hearing care specialist is also a good idea.