At times the hazards to your ears are obvious: a roaring jet engine or loud machines. easy to persuade people to use ear protection when they know they will be around loud noises. But what if there was an organic compound that was as harmful for your hearing as too much noise? After all, if something is organic, doesn’t that necessarily mean it’s healthy for you? How could something that’s organic be just as bad for your hearing as loud noise?
You May Not 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 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 harm your hearing even if exposure is brief and minimal. 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. As a matter of fact, the word “organic” is used by marketers to make consumers think a product is good for them. When food is designated as organic, it means that certain growing practices are employed to keep food free of artificial contaminants. The term organic, when related to solvents, is a chemistry term. In the field of chemistry, the word organic makes reference to any chemicals and compounds that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can produce all kinds of different molecules and, therefore, a large number of different convenient chemicals. But that doesn’t mean they’re not potentially harmful. Each year, millions of workers are exposed to the hazards of hearing loss by working with organic solvents.
Where do You Come Across Organic Solvents?
Organic solvents are used in some of the following items:
- Degreasing chemicals
- Adhesives and glue
- Cleaning supplies
- Varnishes and paints
You get the idea. So, here’s the question, will painting (or even cleaning) your bathroom harm your hearing?
Hazard Associated With Organic Solvents
According to the most current research available, the dangers related to organic solvents generally increase the more you’re exposed to them. So when you clean your house you will most likely be ok. The biggest risk is experienced by those with the highest degree of contact, in other words, factory workers who produce or make use of organic solvents on a commercial scale. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been shown to be linked to exposure to organic substances. This has been shown both in lab experiments using animals and in experiential surveys involving actual people. Loss of hearing in the mid frequency range can be impacted when the little hair cells in the ear are injured by solvents. Regretfully, the ototoxicity of these compounds isn’t well known by business owners. An even smaller number of workers know about the dangers. So there are an absence of standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those workers. All workers who deal with solvents could have hearing tests regularly and that would be really helpful. These hearing screenings would be able to detect the very earliest signs of hearing loss, and workers would be able to respond accordingly.
You Need to go to Work
Most guidelines for safeguarding your hearing from these specific organic substances include regulating your exposure along with regular hearing examinations. But in order for that recommendation to be successful, you need to be aware of the risks first. When the hazards are in plain sight, it’s not that hard. It’s obvious that you need to take precautions to protect against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud sounds. But it isn’t so easy to convince employers to take precautions when there is an invisible threat. Thankfully, as specialists sound more alarm bells, employers and employees alike are beginning to make their work environments a little bit safer for everyone. Some of the best advice would be to wear a mask and work in a well ventilated place. It would also be a good idea to get your ears checked out by a hearing specialist.