Sometimes it can be easy to discern risks to your hearing: a roaring jet engine or loud equipment. It’s not hard to persuade people to protect their ears when they recognize that they will be around loud sounds. But what if your hearing could be harmed by an organic substance? After all, just because something is organic, doesn’t that mean it’s good for you? But how is possible that your ears could be harmed by an organic substance?
An Organic Compound You Wouldn’t Want to Eat
To be clear, we’re not talking about organic things like produce or other food products. 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 injure your hearing even if exposure is brief and minimal. It’s important to note that, in this situation, organic doesn’t refer to the type of label you see on fruit at the grocery store. Actually, marketers use the positive associations we have with the word “organic” to get us to buy products with the implication it’s good for you (or at the very least not bad for you). The word organic, when related to food signifies that the growers didn’t utilize certain chemicals. The term organic, when related to solvents, is a chemistry term. In the field of chemistry, the term organic describes any compounds and chemicals that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can generate all kinds of unique molecules and, consequently, a wide variety of different convenient chemicals. But that doesn’t imply they aren’t potentially dangerous. Each year, millions of workers are exposed to the dangers of hearing loss by working with organic solvents.
Where do You Come Across Organic Solvents?
Some of the following items contain organic solvents:
- Varnishes and paints
- Degreasing elements
- Cleaning supplies
- Glues and adhesives
You get the point. So, this is the question, will painting (or even cleaning) your bathroom damage your hearing?
Organic Solvents And The Dangers Associated With Them
The more you’re subjected to these substances, based on current research, the higher the associated dangers. This means that you’ll most likely be fine while you clean your bathroom. It’s the industrial laborers who are continuously exposed to organic solvents that have the highest danger. Industrial solvents, especially, have been well researched and definitively demonstrate that exposure can lead to ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). Lab tests that utilized animals, in addition to surveys of people, have both demonstrated this to be the case. Exposure to the solvents can have a negative impact on the outer hair cells of the ear, causing loss of hearing in the mid-frequency range. Regretfully, the ototoxicity of these solvents isn’t well recognized by business owners. An even smaller number of workers know about the risks. So there are a lack of standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those employees. All workers who deal with solvents could get hearing tests regularly and that would be really helpful. These workers would be able to get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be identified in its beginning phases.
You Can’t Simply Quit Your Job
Most guidelines for safeguarding your ears from these particular organic substances include managing your exposure as well as regular hearing examinations. But in order for that recommendation to be successful, you have to be mindful of the hazards first. It’s easy 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 when the threat is not visible as is the case for the millions of Americans who work with organic solvents, solutions can be more difficult to sell. Thankfully, as researchers raise more alarms, employers and employees alike are beginning to make their places of work a little bit less dangerous for everyone. Some of the best advice would be to use a mask and work in a well ventilated place. It would also be a good plan to get your ears checked by a hearing specialist.