Sometimes it’s easy to identify risks to your hearing: loud machinery or a roaring jet engine. When the hazards are intuitive and logical, it’s easy to convince people to take practical solutions (which normally include wearing earmuffs or earplugs). But what if there was an organic compound that was just as harmful for your ears as too much noise? Just because something is organic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you. How could something that’s organic be just as bad for your hearing as loud noise?
You Probably Won’t Want to Eat This Organic Compound
To clarify, these organic compounds are not something you can pick up in 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, 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 significant to note that, in this situation, organic doesn’t refer to the kind of label you see on fruit in 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 it’s good for you (or at the very least not bad for you). The term organic, when associated with food indicates that the growers didn’t use particular chemicals. The word organic, when related to solvents, is a chemistry term. Within the discipline of chemistry, the term organic represents any compounds and chemicals that have bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can create a large number of molecules and therefore practical chemicals. But that doesn’t imply they’re not potentially harmful. Every year, millions of workers are exposed to the risks of hearing loss by handling organic solvents.
Organic Solvents, Where do You Find Them?
Some of the following items have organic solvents:
- Degreasing agents
- Paints and varnishes
- Cleaning products
- Adhesives and glue
You get it. So, this is the question, will painting (or even cleaning) your bathroom harm your hearing?
Organic Solvents And The Hazards Related to Them
The more you’re subjected to these substances, according to current research, the higher the corresponding dangers. This means that you’ll probably be fine while you clean your kitchen. The biggest risk is experienced by individuals with the highest degree of contact, in other words, factory workers who develop or utilize organic solvents on a commercial scale. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been demonstrated to be linked to exposure to organic compounds. This has been demonstrated both in laboratory experiments using animals and in experiential surveys with actual people. Subjection to the solvents can have a detrimental impact on the outer hair cells of the ear, leading to hearing loss in the mid-frequency range. The issue is that a lot of companies are don’t know about the ototoxicity of these solvents. An even smaller number of workers know about the hazards. So those workers don’t have standardized protocols to protect them. One thing that could really help, for example, would be standardized hearing screening for all workers who use organic compounds on a consistent basis. These workers would be able to get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be discovered in its beginning phases.
You Can’t Just Quit Your Job
Most recommendations for protecting your hearing from these specific organic compounds include controlling your exposure coupled with regular hearing screenings. But first, you have to be aware of the dangers before you can follow that advice. It’s simple when the dangers 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 it’s not so easy to persuade employers to take safety measures when there is an invisible threat. Thankfully, as researchers sound more alarms, employers and employees alike are beginning to make their places of work a little bit safer for everyone. Some of the most practical advice would be to use a mask and work in a well ventilated spot. It would also be a smart idea to get your hearing examined by a hearing specialist.