Sometimes it’s easy to recognize dangers to your hearing: loud machines or a roaring jet engine. easy to persuade people to protect their ears when they recognize that they will be around loud sounds. But what if there was an organic compound that was as bad for your hearing as excessive noise? After all, just because something is organic, doesn’t that mean it’s healthy for you? But how is possible that your ears could be harmed by an organic substance?
You May Not 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, chemicals known as organic solvents have a good possibility of injuring your ears even with minimal exposure. It’s important to note that, in this case, organic doesn’t refer to the sort of label you see on fruit in the supermarket. In fact, marketers use the positive associations we have with the word “organic” to sell us products with the suggestion that it’s actually good for you (or at least not bad for you). When food is designated as organic, it means that specific growing practices are implemented to keep food free of artificial pollutants. The term organic, when related to solvents, is a chemistry term. Within the field of chemistry, the term organic refers to any compounds and chemicals that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can produce all varieties of distinctive molecules and, therefore, a large number of different convenient chemicals. But that doesn’t mean they’re not potentially harmful. Each year, millions of workers are exposed to the dangers of hearing loss by working with organic solvents.
Where do You Find Organic Solvents?
Some of the following items have organic solvents:
- Cleaning supplies
- Glues and adhesives
- Varnishes and paints
- Degreasing agents
You get the idea. So, the question quickly becomes, will your hearing be damaged by painting or even cleaning?
Organic Solvents And The Hazards Related to Them
The more you’re subjected to these substances, according to recent research, the higher the associated risks. So when you clean your house you will most likely be fine. The biggest risk is experienced by individuals with the most prolonged contact, in other words, factory workers who develop or utilize organic solvents on an industrial scale. Industrial solvents, most notably, have been well studied and definitively reveal that exposure can result in ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). Lab tests that utilized animals, as well as surveys of people, have both shown this to be the case. Subjection to the solvents can have a detrimental effect on the outer hair cells of the ear, causing loss of hearing in the mid-frequency range. Unfortunately, the ototoxicity of these solvents isn’t widely recognized by business owners. These risks are even less recognized by workers. So those employees don’t have standardized protocols to protect them. All workers who handle solvents could get hearing screenings on a regular basis and that would really help. These workers would be able to get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be identified in its beginning phases.
You Have to go to Work
Most guidelines for protecting your hearing from these particular organic substances include controlling your exposure along with regular hearing tests. But first, you have to be aware of the hazards before you can heed that advice. When the dangers are in plain sight, it’s not that hard. It’s obvious that you should take precautions against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud noises. But it isn’t so easy to persuade employers to take precautions when there is an invisible threat. The good news is, ongoing research is assisting both employees and employers take a safer approach. Some of the most practical advice would be to use a mask and work in a well ventilated place. Having your ears checked by a hearing care specialist is also a practical idea.