Sometimes it’s easy to discern risks to your hearing: a loud jet engine beside your ears or the screeching machines on the floor of a factory. It’s not hard to persuade people to protect their ears when they know they will be near loud noises. But what if your hearing could be harmed by an organic substance? After all, if something is organic, doesn’t that necessarily 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 called organic solvents have a good chance of damaging your ears even with very little exposure. To be clear, the sort of organic label you find on fruit in the supermarket is totally different. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is utilized by marketers to make people presume a product is good for them. When food is classified as organic, it means that specific growing practices are used to keep food from having artificial contaminants. The term organic, when associated with solvents, is a chemistry term. In the discipline of chemistry, the term organic makes reference to any compounds and chemicals that consist of bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can generate all varieties of different molecules and, therefore, a wide range of different useful chemicals. But that doesn’t mean they’re not potentially harmful. Every year, millions of workers are exposed to the hazards of hearing loss by working with organic solvents.
Organic Solvents, Where do You Come Across Them?
Some of the following products have organic solvents:
- Glues and adhesives
- Degreasing agents
- Paints and varnishes
- Cleaning supplies
You get the idea. So, the question quickly becomes, will your hearing be damaged by cleaning or painting?
Organic Solvents And The Dangers Associated With Them
According to the most current research out there, the risks related to organic solvents tend to increase the more you’re subjected to them. This means that you’ll probably be fine while you clean your kitchen. It’s the industrial workers who are continuously exposed to organic solvents that are at the highest danger. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been shown to be linked to exposure to organic substances. This has been shown both in lab experiments using animals and in experiential surveys involving real people. Loss of hearing in the mid frequency range can be impacted when the tiny hair cells in the ear are damaged by solvents. The difficulty is that many businesses are not aware of the ototoxicity of these solvents. These hazards are known even less by workers. So those workers don’t have consistent protocols to protect them. All workers who handle solvents could get hearing tests 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 detected in its beginning stages.
You Have to go to Work
Most guidelines for protecting your ears from these particular organic compounds include regulating your exposure as well as periodic hearing screenings. But in order for that advice to be practical, you need to be mindful of the dangers first. When the risks are obvious, it’s not that hard. It’s obvious that you need to take safeguards against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud noises. But when the danger is not visible as is the case for the millions of people who work with organic solvents, solutions can be more difficult to sell. The good news is, ongoing research is assisting both employers and employees take a safer approach. Some of the best advice would be to wear a mask and work in a well ventilated spot. It would also be a good plan to get your hearing examined by a hearing specialist.