Sometimes it can be easy to recognize risks to your ears: a roaring jet engine or loud equipment. easy to convince people to use ear protection when they recognize that they will be around loud noises. But what if there was an organic substance that was just as harmful for your hearing as too much noise? After all, if something is organic, doesn’t that 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 in the produce department of your supermarket and you wouldn’t 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 known as organic solvents can damage your hearing even if exposure is minimal and limited. It’s worthwhile to note that, in this case, organic doesn’t make reference to the type of label you see on fruit at the grocery store. In fact, marketers use the positive connections we have with the word “organic” to get us to buy products with the suggestion that it’s good for you (or at the very least not bad for you). When food is designated as organic, it means that particular growing methods are used to keep food free of artificial contaminants. When we talk about organic solvents, the term organic is chemistry-related. In the field of chemistry, the term organic refers to any compounds and chemicals that consist of bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can create a large number of molecules and therefore practical chemicals. But that doesn’t guarantee they’re not potentially dangerous. Millions of workers every year work with organic solvents and they’re frequently exposed to the risks of hearing loss as they do so.
Where do You Find Organic Solvents?
Some of the following products have organic solvents:
- Paints and varnishes
- Adhesives and glue
- Degreasing elements
- Cleaning products
You get the point. So, the question suddenly becomes, will painting (or even cleaning) your living room harm your hearing?
Risks Associated With Organic Solvents
The more you’re exposed to these substances, based on current research, the higher the associated dangers. This means that you’ll probably be okay while you clean your house. It’s the industrial workers who are constantly around organic solvents that are at the highest danger. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been demonstrated to be associated with subjection to organic compounds. This has been demonstrated 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, resulting in loss of hearing in the mid-frequency range. The issue is that many businesses are don’t know about the ototoxicity of these compounds. These risks are known even less by workers. So there are insufficient standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those workers. One thing that may really help, for instance, would be standardized hearing examinations for all workers who handle organic compounds on a regular basis. These hearing examinations would detect the very earliest indications of hearing loss, and workers would be able to respond appropriately.
You Can’t Simply Quit Your Job
Periodic Hearing examinations and controlling your exposure to these compounds are the most common suggestions. But first, you need to be mindful of the risks before you can heed that advice. It’s simple when the dangers are well known. Everyone knows that loud noises can damage your ears and so precautions to protect your hearing from day-to-day sounds of the factory floor are logical and obvious. But when the threat is invisible as it is for the millions of Americans who work with organic solvents, solutions can be a harder sell. Fortunately, as specialists raise more alarms, employees and employers are moving to make their work environments a little bit less dangerous for everyone. For now, it’s a good idea to only use these products in a well-ventilated area and to wear masks. It would also be a practical plan to get your ears checked by a hearing specialist.