Dentist at risk of hearing loss?

Good for your teeth, bad for your ears?

For me, the worst part of going to the dentist has always been the dreaded drill. Oh, it has nothing to do with the pain-filled drilling of teeth but more so with the high pitched “scream” it emits as it’s working. Of course, once the drilling is done and the screaming has stopped, I still have the low, droll, hum echoing through my head.  I can only imagine how much worse it must be for the doctor who is drilling all day long.

I suppose that’s what East Tennessee State University student, Krisztina Busci Johnson, had in mind when she started a study that seeks to determine whether dental drills take a toll on dentists’ ears.  A study that has won her a National Hearing Conservation Association 2011/2012 research award.

Being a dental assistant for eight years herself, Johnson intends to measure and compare data on the hearing threshold of dentists drilling without hearing protection over a period of a working day. Daniel Zimmerman of the Dental Tribune writes, Johnson is currently seeking participants who will also receive a free clinical hearing evaluation during the process. If successful, she hopes to be able to persuade dentists to use better hearing protection and to widen the study by including dental assistants or hygienists. “Another possibility is that the data could persuade dental drill manufacturers to produce drills that are safer for the human ear,”  said Johnson

There have been some earlier studies that have gone into the possible correlation between hearing loss and dental drills but none that have been conclusive. But, Fred Michmershuizen of the Dental Tribune writes, “Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) prescribes that any workers exposed to noise levels in excess of 85 decibels are at risk. The exposure to continuous high frequencies from a dental drill can degrade one’s hearing. According to the experts, dental professionals should use protective hearing devices. ”

Have you noticed any issues with your hearing after a long day of cavity drilling? Please post your comments below and let us know how drilling affects you.