Sometimes the dangers to your hearing are clear: a loud jet engine beside your ears or the bellowing machinery on the factory floor. When the dangers are logical and intuitive, it’s easy to convince people to take practical solutions (which normally include wearing earmuffs or earplugs). But what if your hearing could be harmed by an organic compound? Just because something is organic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you. How can something that’s organic be equally as bad for your ears as loud noise?
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, there’s a strong possibility that a group of chemicals known as organic solvents can injure your hearing even if exposure is minimal and brief. It’s important to note that, in this case, organic does not make reference to the sort of label you find on fruit at the grocery store. The truth is, marketers make use of the positive connections we have with the word “organic” to sell us products with the suggestion it’s good for you (or at least not bad for you). When food is labeled as organic, it means that certain growing methods are implemented to keep food from having artificial impurities. The word organic, when associated with solvents, is a term used in chemistry. In the discipline of chemistry, the word organic represents any chemicals and compounds that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can generate all kinds of distinctive molecules and, therefore, a wide variety of different useful chemicals. But at times they can also be unsafe. Millions of workers each year work with organic solvents and they’re often exposed to the hazards of hearing loss while doing so.
Organic Solvents, Where do You Find Them?
Some of the following items have organic solvents:
- Varnishes and paints
- Degreasing elements
- Cleaning supplies
- Glues and adhesives
You get it. So, this is the question, will painting (or even cleaning) your living room damage your hearing?
Organic Solvents And The Dangers Associated With Them
According to the most recent research available, the dangers related to organic solvents generally increase the more you’re subjected to them. So when you clean your house you will most likely be ok. The biggest risk is to people with the highest degree of contact, in other words, factory workers who develop or use organic solvents on an industrial scale. Industrial solvents, especially, have been well researched and definitively reveal that exposure can trigger ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). This has been shown both in laboratory experiments involving animals and in experiential surveys involving actual people. 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. Regretfully, the ototoxicity of these compounds isn’t well recognized by business owners. These risks are known even less by workers. So there are an absence of standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those workers. All workers who deal with solvents could have hearing examinations regularly and that would be really helpful. These hearing screenings would be able to detect the very earliest indications of hearing loss, and workers would be able to react accordingly.
You Need to Work
Most guidelines for protecting your hearing from these specific organic substances include regulating your exposure and also regular hearing examinations. But if you want that recommendation to be effective, you need to be informed of the hazards first. It’s straight forward when the hazards are well known. It’s obvious that you should take precautions to protect against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud sounds. But when the danger is not visible as is the case for the millions of Us citizens who work with organic solvents, solutions can be a harder sell. Fortunately, as specialists sound more alarm bells, employers and employees alike are beginning to make their places of work a little bit less dangerous for everyone. In the meantime, it’s a smart idea to only use these products in a well-ventilated area and to wear masks. Getting your ears evaluated by a hearing care specialist is also a practical idea.