Sometimes it can be easy to identify risks to your ears: the roaring jet engine beside your ears or the screeching machines on the floor of a factory. When the hazards are intuitive and logical, it’s easy to get people on board with practical solutions (which normally include wearing earmuffs or earplugs). But what if there was an organic compound that was just as bad for your ears as too much noise? Just because something is organic doesn’t always mean it’s healthy for you. But how is possible that your ears could be damaged by an organic substance?
An Organic Compound You Don’t Want to Eat
To clarify, these organic substances are not something you can pick up at the produce section of your supermarket nor would you want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, there’s a strong chance that a group of chemicals called organic solvents can injure your hearing even if exposure is minimal and brief. It’s worthwhile to note that, in this situation, organic does not refer to the kind of label you find on fruit in the grocery store. In reality, the word “organic” is utilized by marketers to make consumers presume a product is good for them. When food is labeled as organic, it means that specific growing practices are implemented to keep food from having artificial impurities. When we talk about organic solvents, the term organic is related to chemistry. Within the discipline of chemistry, the term organic makes reference to any chemicals and compounds that consist of bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can generate a high number of molecules and consequently worthwhile chemicals. But that doesn’t imply they aren’t potentially harmful. Millions of workers each year handle organic solvents and they’re frequently exposed to the hazards of hearing loss while doing so.
Organic Solvents, Where do You Find Them?
Some of the following products contain organic solvents:
- Glues and adhesives
- Degreasing elements
- Cleaning supplies
- Varnishes and paints
You get it. So, the question suddenly becomes, will painting (or even cleaning) your living room harm your hearing?
Risks Related to Organic Solvents
The more you’re exposed to these substances, based on recent research, the higher the associated hazard. This means that you’ll probably be fine while you clean your bathroom. The biggest risk is experienced by individuals with the most prolonged contact, in other words, factory workers who produce or utilize organic solvents on an industrial scale. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been demonstrated to be associated with exposure to organic compounds. This has been shown both in lab experiments using animals and in experiential surveys with actual people. Loss of hearing in the mid frequency range can be impacted when the tiny hair cells of the ear are injured by solvents. The difficulty is that a lot of companies are unaware of the ototoxicity of these solvents. An even smaller number of workers know about the risks. So there are an absence of standardized protocols to safeguard the hearing of those workers. All workers who handle solvents could get hearing screenings on a regular basis and that would be really helpful. These hearing examinations would be able to detect the very earliest signs of hearing loss, and workers could respond accordingly.
You Need to go to Work
Most suggestions for safeguarding your hearing from these specific organic substances include managing your exposure coupled with routine hearing examinations. But first, you have to be mindful of the dangers before you can heed that advice. It’s not a problem when the dangers are well known. It’s obvious that you should take precautions against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud sounds. But when the danger is invisible as is the case for the millions of Us citizens who work with organic solvents, solutions can be a harder sell. The good news is, continuing research is assisting both employees and employers take a safer path. Some of the best advice would be to wear a mask and work in a well ventilated area. It would also be a practical idea to have your ears checked out by a hearing care professional.