Sometimes it can be easy to recognize risks to your ears: a roaring jet engine or loud equipment. It’s not difficult to persuade people to use ear protection when they recognize that they will be around loud sounds. But what if there was an organic substance that was as bad for your hearing as excessive noise? After all, just because something is organic, doesn’t that 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 Compound
To clarify, these organic compounds are not something you can pick up at the produce section of your grocery store and you wouldn’t want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, chemicals known as organic solvents have a good possibility of damaging your ears even with very little exposure. It’s worthwhile to note that, in this case, organic doesn’t refer to the sort of label you see on fruit at the supermarket. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is employed by marketers to make people think a product isn’t harmful for them. The word organic, when associated with food means that the growers didn’t use particular chemicals. The word organic, when associated with solvents, is a chemistry term. In the field of chemistry, the word organic represents any compounds and chemicals that consist of bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can generate all kinds of different molecules and, consequently, a large number of different convenient chemicals. But that doesn’t guarantee they aren’t potentially harmful. Millions of workers every year work with organic solvents and they’re frequently exposed to the risks of hearing loss while doing so.
Organic Solvents, Where do You Find Them?
Organic solvents are used in some of the following items:
- Cleaning products
- Glues and adhesives
- Varnishes and paints
- Degreasing agents
You get the point. So, this is the question, will your hearing be damaged by painting or even cleaning?
Risks Associated With Organic Solvents
The more you’re exposed to these substances, according to recent research, the higher the corresponding hazard. So when you clean your house you will probably be fine. It’s the industrial workers who are regularly exposed to organic solvents that are at the highest risk. Industrial solvents, especially, have been well researched and definitively demonstrate that exposure can trigger ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). This has been demonstrated both in lab experiments using animals and in experiential surveys involving real people. Hearing loss in the mid frequency range can be impacted when the tiny hair cells of the ear are damaged by solvents. The issue is that a lot of companies are not aware of the ototoxicity of these compounds. These risks are even less recognized by workers. So there are an absence of standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those employees. One thing that could really help, for example, would be standardized hearing tests for all workers who deal with organic compounds on a regular basis. These hearing tests would detect the very earliest signs of hearing loss, and workers would be able to respond appropriately.
You Need to go to Work
Most guidelines for safeguarding your hearing from these specific organic compounds include managing your exposure as well as routine hearing tests. But first, you need to be aware of the hazards before you can heed that advice. When the risks are in plain sight, it’s not that hard. It’s obvious that you should take safeguards against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud sounds. But it isn’t so easy to convince employers to take safety measures when there is an invisible threat. The good news is, continuing research is helping both employees and employers take a safer path. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to try to use these products in a well-ventilated area and to wear masks. Getting your hearing tested by a hearing expert is also a smart idea.