Sometimes it can be easy to recognize risks to your hearing: a roaring jet engine or loud machinery. When the risks are intuitive and logical, it’s easy to get people on board with pragmatic solutions (which commonly include using earplugs or earmuffs). But what if there was an organic substance that was as harmful for your ears as excessive noise? After all, if something is organic, doesn’t that necessarily mean it’s healthy for you? How can something that’s organic be equally as bad for your ears as loud noise?
You Might Not Want to Eat This Organic Compound
To clarify, these organic compounds are not something you can pick up at the produce section of your supermarket nor would you want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, chemicals called organic solvents have a strong possibility of injuring your ears even with minimal exposure. To be clear, the type of organic label you find on fruit in the supermarket is entirely different. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is employed by marketers to make consumers presume a product is good for them. When food is labeled as organic, it means that specific growing practices are used to keep food free of artificial impurities. The term organic, when associated with solvents, is a chemistry term. Within the discipline of chemistry, the word organic makes reference to any chemicals and compounds that have bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can produce all kinds of unique molecules and, consequently, a wide variety of different convenient chemicals. But that doesn’t imply they’re not potentially harmful. Millions of workers every year work with organic solvents and they’re often exposed to the risks of hearing loss while doing so.
Where do You Come Across Organic Solvents?
Organic solvents are found in some of the following products:
- Paints and varnishes
- Degreasing chemicals
- Cleaning supplies
- Adhesives and glue
You get the point. So, the question quickly becomes, will your hearing be harmed by painting or even cleaning?
Hazard Associated With Organic Solvents
Based on the most recent research available, the dangers related to organic solvents tend to increase the more you’re exposed to them. So when you clean your home you will most likely be okay. It’s the industrial laborers who are continuously around organic solvents that have the highest risk. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been shown to be linked to subjection to organic compounds. This has been shown both in lab experiments using animals and in experiential surveys involving actual people. Exposure to the solvents can have a negative impact on the outer hair cells of the ear, resulting in hearing loss in the mid-frequency range. The issue is that a lot of businesses are don’t know about the ototoxicity of these solvents. These risks are even less recognized by workers. So those workers don’t have standardized protocols to protect them. All workers who handle solvents could get hearing examinations regularly and that would really help. These workers could get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be detected in its beginning stages.
You Have to Work
Most suggestions for protecting your hearing from these particular organic compounds include regulating your exposure as well as routine hearing screenings. But first, you need to be aware of the risks before you can heed that advice. It’s simple when the risks are plain to see. Everyone knows that loud noises can injure your hearing and so precautions to protect your hearing from the daily sound of the factory floor are obvious and logical. But it isn’t so straight forward to convince employers to take safety measures when there is an invisible threat. The good news is, ongoing research is helping both employers and employees take a safer approach. Some of the best advice would be to use a mask and work in a well ventilated area. It would also be a practical plan to have your hearing looked at by a hearing care professional.