At times the dangers to your ears are clear: the roaring jet engine beside your ears or the screeching machinery on the floor of a factory. It’s not difficult to convince people to protect their ears when they know they will be around loud noises. But what if your hearing could be harmed by an organic compound? Simply because something is organic doesn’t always mean it’s healthy for you. How could something that’s organic be just as bad for your hearing as loud noise?
An Organic Substance You Don’t Want to Eat
To clarify, these organic compounds are not something you can get at 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 group of chemicals known as organic solvents can damage your hearing even if exposure is limited and minimal. It’s significant to note that, in this case, organic doesn’t refer to the sort of label you find on fruit in the supermarket. In reality, the word “organic” is used by marketers to make people presume a product isn’t harmful for them. The word organic, when associated with food indicates that the growers didn’t utilize certain chemicals. The term organic, when related to solvents, is a chemistry term. Within the discipline of chemistry, the word organic makes reference to any chemicals and compounds that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can create a large number of molecules and therefore useful chemicals. But that doesn’t mean they’re not potentially dangerous. Each year, millions of workers are exposed to the hazards of hearing loss by handling organic solvents.
Where do You Come Across Organic Solvents?
Organic solvents are used in some of the following items:
- Cleaning products
- Glues and adhesives
- Paints and varnishes
- Degreasing elements
You get the point. So, this is the question, will painting (or even cleaning) your bathroom harm your hearing?
Dangers 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 okay while you clean your bathroom. It’s the industrial workers who are continuously exposed to organic solvents that are at the highest danger. Industrial solvents, most notably, have been well researched and definitively show that exposure can lead to ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). This has been demonstrated both in laboratory experiments involving animals and in experiential surveys with real people. Loss of hearing in the mid frequency range can be affected when the little hair cells in the ear are damaged by solvents. Unfortunately, the ototoxicity of these solvents isn’t well known by company owners. These risks are known even less by workers. So those employees don’t have consistent protocols to protect them. All workers who handle solvents could have hearing screenings on a regular basis and that would really help. These workers would be able to get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be detected in its beginning stages.
You Have to go to Work
Periodic Hearing exams and limiting your exposure to these solvents are the most frequent recommendations. But first, you have to be conscious of the dangers before you can follow that advice. When the risks are obvious, it’s not that hard. It’s obvious that you have to take precautions against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud noises. 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. Thankfully, as researchers sound more alarm bells, employees and employers are beginning to make their work environments a little bit less dangerous for everyone. Some of the best advice would be to wear a mask and work in a well ventilated area. Having your hearing checked by a hearing expert is also a good idea.