Sometimes it’s easy to recognize hazards to your hearing: a roaring jet engine or loud equipment. When the dangers are logical and intuitive, it’s easy to get people on board with practical solutions (which normally include wearing earmuffs or earplugs). But what if your ears could be damaged by an organic substance? Simply because something is organic doesn’t always mean it’s healthy for you. How could something that’s organic be equally as bad for your hearing as loud noise?
You Probably Won’t 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, there’s a strong chance that a group of chemicals known as organic solvents can injure your hearing even if exposure is brief and minimal. To be certain, the type of organic label you see on fruit in the grocery store is entirely different. In reality, the word “organic” is utilized by marketers to make consumers believe a product isn’t harmful for them. When food is classified as organic, it means that particular growing methods are used to keep food from having artificial impurities. The word organic, when related to solvents, is a term used in chemistry. In the field of chemistry, the word organic represents any compounds and chemicals that have bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can create all kinds of unique molecules and, consequently, a large number of different useful chemicals. But at times they can also be harmful. Every year, millions of workers are exposed to the risks of hearing loss by handling organic solvents.
Where do You Come Across Organic Solvents?
Some of the following products have organic solvents:
- Degreasing elements
- Adhesives and glue
- Paints and varnishes
- Cleaning supplies
You get the point. So, this is the question, will your hearing be harmed by painting or even cleaning?
Dangers Related to Organic Solvents
Based on the most recent research available, the risks associated with organic solvents generally increase the more you’re exposed to them. So when you clean your house you will most likely be okay. It’s the industrial workers who are continuously around organic solvents that are at the highest risk. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been shown to be connected to subjection to organic substances. This has been shown both in lab experiments involving animals and in experiential surveys involving actual people. Hearing loss in the mid frequency range can be impacted when the little hair cells in the ear are damaged by solvents. Unfortunately, the ototoxicity of these compounds isn’t well recognized by company owners. These risks are known even less by workers. So there are insufficient standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those employees. All workers who deal with solvents could get hearing tests regularly and that would be really helpful. These hearing tests would detect the very earliest signs of hearing loss, and workers would be able to respond appropriately.
You Can’t Simply Quit Your Job
Regular Hearing exams and limiting your exposure to these compounds are the most common recommendations. But in order for that recommendation to be successful, you have to be aware of the risks first. When the dangers are obvious, it’s not that hard. It’s obvious that you need to take precautions against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud sounds. But it’s not so easy to persuade employers to take precautions when there is an invisible hazard. Luckily, ongoing research is assisting both employees and employers take a safer path. For the time being, it’s a good plan to only work with these products in a well-ventilated area and to always use a mask. It would also be a practical plan to get your ears checked by a hearing specialist.