Sometimes it can be easy to recognize dangers to your ears: loud equipment or a roaring jet engine. easy to convince people to use ear protection when they know they will be around loud noises. But what if your hearing could be damaged by an organic compound? After all, if something is organic, doesn’t that necessarily mean it’s good for you? How can something that’s organic be just as bad for your hearing as loud noise?
An Organic Substance You Wouldn’t Want to Eat
To clarify, these organic compounds are not something you can pick up at the produce department of your supermarket and you wouldn’t want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, there’s a strong possibility that a group of chemicals known as organic solvents can damage your hearing even if exposure is limited and minimal. To be certain, the kind of organic label you see on fruit in the grocery store is entirely different. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is used by marketers to make consumers think a product isn’t harmful for them. When food is classified as organic, it means that certain growing methods are used to keep food from having artificial pollutants. When we talk about organic solvents, the term organic is related to chemistry. In the field of chemistry, the term organic refers to any chemicals and compounds that consist of bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can produce all kinds of unique molecules and, therefore, a wide range of different useful chemicals. But that doesn’t imply they aren’t potentially harmful. Every year, millions of workers are exposed to the dangers of hearing loss by working with organic solvents.
Organic Solvents, Where do You Come Across Them?
Some of the following products contain organic solvents:
- Glues and adhesives
- Cleaning products
- Degreasing chemicals
- Paints and varnishes
You get the point. So, this is the question, will painting (or even cleaning) your bathroom harm your hearing?
Dangers Related to Organic Solvents
The more you’re exposed to these substances, according to current research, the higher the corresponding hazard. So when you clean your house you will probably be fine. It’s the industrial laborers who are constantly exposed to organic solvents that have the highest danger. Industrial solvents, most notably, have been well researched and definitively reveal that exposure can lead to ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). This has been shown both in lab experiments involving animals and in experiential surveys involving real people. Subjection to the solvents can have a negative impact on the outer hair cells of the ear, resulting in loss of hearing in the mid-frequency range. Regretfully, the ototoxicity of these compounds isn’t well known by company owners. These dangers are even less recognized by workers. So there are insufficient standardized protocols to safeguard the hearing of those employees. All workers who deal with solvents could get hearing exams regularly and that would really help. These hearing tests would detect the very earliest indications of hearing loss, and workers could respond appropriately.
You Need to Work
Most guidelines for protecting your hearing from these specific organic substances include regulating your exposure and also routine hearing tests. But in order for that recommendation to be practical, you need to be aware of the risks first. When the hazards are obvious, it’s not that hard. It’s obvious that you have to take precautions against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud sounds. But it isn’t so straight forward to convince employers to take safety measures when there is an invisible hazard. Fortunately, as researchers sound more alarm bells, employees and employers are beginning to make their work environments a little bit safer for everyone. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to only work with these products in a well-ventilated area and to wear masks. Having your ears evaluated by a hearing care professional is also a smart idea.