Sometimes it can be easy to discern dangers to your ears: a roaring jet engine or loud machinery. It’s not hard to persuade people to protect their ears when they recognize that they will be around loud noises. But what if your hearing could be harmed by an organic compound? After all, if something is organic, doesn’t that mean it’s good 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 Compound
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 good possibility that a group of chemicals known as organic solvents can injure your hearing even if exposure is minimal and limited. It’s important to note that, in this case, organic doesn’t refer to the type of label you see on fruit at the supermarket. In reality, the word “organic” is utilized by marketers to make people believe a product isn’t harmful for them. When food is designated as organic, it means that specific growing practices are used to keep food from having artificial contaminants. When we talk about organic solvents, the word organic is related to chemistry. In the discipline of chemistry, the term organic makes reference to any compounds and chemicals that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can generate all kinds of unique molecules and, therefore, a wide range of different convenient chemicals. But that doesn’t imply they aren’t potentially dangerous. Millions of workers every year work with organic solvents and they’re often exposed to the dangers of hearing loss while doing so.
Where do You Find Organic Solvents?
Organic solvents are found in some of the following products:
- Cleaning products
- Glues and adhesives
- Degreasing chemicals
- Varnishes and paints
You get the point. So, this is the question, will painting (or even cleaning) your living room damage your hearing?
Dangers Related to Organic Solvents
According to the most current research available, the hazards related to organic solvents tend to increase the more you’re exposed to them. This means that you’ll probably be fine while you clean your kitchen. It’s the industrial workers who are regularly around organic solvents that have the highest risk. Industrial solvents, especially, have been well studied and definitively demonstrate that exposure can trigger ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). Lab tests that used animals, in addition to surveys of people, have both shown this to be the case. Loss of hearing in the mid frequency range can be impacted when the tiny hair cells in the ear are injured by solvents. The problem is that many businesses are unaware of the ototoxicity of these solvents. An even smaller number of workers are aware of the hazards. So there are an absence of standardized protocols to safeguard the hearing of those workers. All workers who deal with solvents could get hearing tests regularly and that would really help. These hearing tests would detect the very earliest signs of hearing loss, and workers could react appropriately.
You Have to Work
Most suggestions for safeguarding your hearing from these particular organic substances include regulating your exposure and also periodic hearing examinations. But first, you have to be aware of the hazards before you can follow that advice. It’s straight forward when the dangers are plain to see. It’s obvious that you should take safeguards against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud noises. But when the threat is invisible as it is for the millions of Americans who work with organic solvents, solutions can be a harder sell. Thankfully, as specialists raise more alarm bells, employees and employers are moving to make their places of work a little bit less dangerous for everyone. For now, it’s a good strategy to only use these products in a well-ventilated area and to always use a mask. Having your hearing checked by a hearing expert is also a good idea.