Sometimes it can be easy to discern dangers to your ears: a roaring jet engine or loud machinery. When the hazards are logical and intuitive, it’s easy to get people on board with pragmatic solutions (which usually include wearing earmuffs or earplugs). But what if there was an organic substance that was as bad for your hearing as excessive noise? After all, just because something is organic, doesn’t that necessarily mean it’s good for you? How can something that’s organic be equally as bad for your ears 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 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 strong possibility of harming your hearing even with very little exposure. It’s worthwhile to note that, in this case, organic does not mean the type of label you see on fruit in the grocery store. In fact, marketers make use of the positive associations we have with the word “organic” to sell us products with the implication that it’s actually good for you (or at the very least not bad for you). When food is labeled as organic, it means that specific growing methods are implemented to keep food from having artificial contaminants. The term organic, when related to solvents, is a term used in chemistry. In the field of chemistry, the word organic describes any chemicals and compounds that consist of bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can create a large number of molecules and consequently worthwhile chemicals. But sometimes they can also be unsafe. Millions of workers every year handle organic solvents and they’re regularly exposed to the hazards of hearing loss while doing so.
Where do You Find Organic Solvents?
Some of the following products have organic solvents:
- Cleaning products
- Adhesives and glue
- Varnishes and paints
- Degreasing chemicals
You get the idea. So, this is the question, will painting (or even cleaning) your bathroom harm your hearing?
Hazard Associated With Organic Solvents
According to the most recent research available, the risks related to organic solvents generally increase the more you’re subjected to them. This means that you’ll most likely be okay while you clean your house. It’s the industrial workers who are constantly around organic solvents that have the highest danger. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been demonstrated to be connected to exposure to organic substances. This has been demonstrated both in lab experiments involving animals and in experiential surveys with actual people. Exposure to the solvents can have a negative effect on the outer hair cells of the ear, leading to hearing loss in the mid-frequency range. Unfortunately, the ototoxicity of these compounds isn’t widely recognized by business owners. An even smaller number of workers know about the hazards. So there are an absence of standardized protocols to help protect the hearing of those workers. One thing that may really help, for instance, would be standardized hearing screening for all workers who handle organic solvents on a consistent basis. These workers could get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be discovered in its beginning phases.
You Have to Work
Regular Hearing tests and controlling your exposure to these solvents are the most common suggestions. But in order for that advice to be effective, you have to be informed of the hazards first. It’s simple when the hazards are well known. No one doubts that loud noises can injure your hearing and so precautions to safeguard your hearing from the daily sound of the factory floor seems logical and obvious. But when the threat is not visible as is the case for the millions of Us citizens who work with organic solvents, solutions can be more difficult to sell. The good news is, continuing research is assisting both employers and employees take a safer approach. Some of the most practical advice would be to wear a mask and work in a well ventilated area. Getting your hearing evaluated by a hearing care professional is also a good idea.