At times the hazards to your hearing are obvious: the roaring jet engine next to your ears or the bellowing machines on the factory floor. It’s not hard to convince people to protect their ears when they recognize that they will be near loud noises. But what if there was an organic substance that was as harmful for your ears as excessive noise? After all, if something is organic, doesn’t that necessarily mean it’s good for you? How can something that’s organic be just as bad for your ears as loud noise?
An Organic Compound You Don’t Want to Eat
To clarify, these organic substances are not something you can pick up in the produce section of your grocery store 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 collection of chemicals known as organic solvents can harm your hearing even if exposure is limited and minimal. It’s worthwhile to note that, in this situation, organic does not mean the type of label you see on fruit at the supermarket. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is used by marketers to make people believe a product isn’t harmful for them. When food is designated as organic, it means that particular growing practices are employed to keep food from having artificial contaminants. The word organic, when related to solvents, is a term used in chemistry. In the discipline of chemistry, the word organic represents any compounds and chemicals that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can generate all kinds of unique molecules and, consequently, a large number of different convenient chemicals. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t potentially harmful. Millions of workers each year handle organic solvents and they’re often exposed to the hazards of hearing loss as they do so.
Where do You Find Organic Solvents?
Organic solvents are found in some of the following items:
- Adhesives and glue
- Degreasing elements
- Cleaning supplies
- Varnishes and paints
You get the point. So, here’s the question, will your hearing be damaged by painting or even cleaning?
Dangers Related to Organic Solvents
The more you’re subjected to these substances, based on current research, the higher the corresponding dangers. So when you clean your home you will most likely be ok. The most potent risk is experienced by people with the highest degree of contact, in other words, factory workers who produce or use organic solvents on an industrial scale. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been shown to be associated with subjection to organic substances. This has been demonstrated both in laboratory experiments using animals and in experiential surveys involving real people. Loss of hearing in the mid frequency range can be affected when the tiny hair cells of the ear are injured by solvents. Unfortunately, the ototoxicity of these solvents isn’t widely recognized by company owners. Even fewer workers know about the dangers. So there are an absence of standardized protocols to safeguard the hearing of those workers. All workers who deal with solvents could have hearing examinations on a regular basis and that would really help. These hearing examinations would detect the very earliest indications of hearing loss, and workers would be able to react appropriately.
You Have to Work
Routine Hearing assessments and limiting your exposure to these compounds are the most frequent recommendations. But first, you have to be conscious of the hazards before you can follow that advice. It’s not a problem when the hazards are well known. It’s obvious that you need to take precautions to protect against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud noises. But when the threat is not visible as is the case for the millions of people who work with organic solvents, solutions can be a harder sell. Thankfully, as researchers sound more alarms, employees and employers are beginning to make their work environments a little bit safer for everyone. Some of the best advice would be to wear a mask and work in a well ventilated area. Having your ears examined by a hearing expert is also a practical idea.