Sometimes it’s easy to recognize risks to your hearing: the roaring jet engine beside your ears or the screeching machinery on the factory floor. When the hazards are intuitive and logical, it’s easy to convince people to take pragmatic solutions (which commonly include wearing earmuffs or earplugs). But what if your hearing could be harmed by an organic compound? Just because something is organic doesn’t always mean it’s healthy for you. But how is possible that your hearing could be damaged by an organic substance?
You Probably Won’t Want to Eat This Organic Substance
To clarify, these organic compounds are not something you can get at the produce department of your grocery store and you wouldn’t want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, chemicals called organic solvents have a good possibility of damaging your hearing even with minimal exposure. It’s significant to note that, in this situation, organic does not refer to the sort of label you see on fruit at the supermarket. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is used by marketers to make consumers think a product isn’t harmful for them. The word organic, when related to food means that the growers didn’t use certain chemicals. When we mention organic solvents, the term organic is related to chemistry. Within the field of chemistry, the term organic describes any chemicals and compounds that have bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can produce a high number of molecules and therefore useful chemicals. But that doesn’t imply they aren’t potentially dangerous. Millions of workers every year handle organic solvents and they’re frequently exposed to the dangers of hearing loss as they do so.
Where do You Come Across Organic Solvents?
Some of the following products contain organic solvents:
- Adhesives and glue
- Degreasing chemicals
- Paints and varnishes
- Cleaning products
You get it. So, this is the question, will painting (or even cleaning) your bathroom damage your hearing?
Organic Solvents And The Risks Associated With Them
According to the most current research out there, the risks related to organic solvents tend to increase the more you’re subjected to them. So when you clean your home you will most likely be ok. It’s the industrial workers who are continuously around organic solvents that are at the highest danger. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been demonstrated to be associated with exposure to organic compounds. This has been demonstrated both in laboratory experiments involving animals and in experiential surveys involving real people. Exposure to the solvents can have a negative impact on the outer hair cells of the ear, leading to hearing loss in the mid-frequency range. The issue is that many businesses are don’t know about the ototoxicity of these compounds. These hazards are even less recognized by workers. So there are an absence of standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those workers. All workers who deal with solvents could get hearing screenings regularly and that would be really helpful. These hearing screenings would be able to detect the very earliest indications of hearing loss, and workers would be able to respond accordingly.
You Have to Work
Periodic Hearing exams and controlling your exposure to these solvents are the most frequent suggestions. But if you expect that recommendation to be successful, you have to be mindful of the hazards first. It’s easy when the hazards are well known. Everyone knows that loud noises can injure your hearing and so taking steps to protect your ears from the daily sound of the factory floor are obvious and logical. But when the danger is invisible as it is for the millions of Us citizens who work with organic solvents, solutions can be more difficult to sell. Luckily, continuing research is helping both employees and employers take a safer approach. For the time being, it’s a smart plan to try to use these products in a well-ventilated area and to wear masks. It would also be a smart idea to have your hearing checked out by a hearing specialist.