According to a recent study administered by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), dentists are 50% more likely to suffer from tinnitus and hearing loss compared to the general population. This increased risk can be attributed to the use of high-speed dental handpieces and repeated noise exposure.
Furthermore, individuals who have been involved in the dental industry for longer periods of time are also more likely to experience symptoms of tinnitus. These instances of tinnitus are often reported to be more severe.
What is Tinnitus?
It is described as the regular presence of buzzing, ringing, or rattling sounds, even when there is no external source causing these sounds to occur. It might seem trivial but left untreated, the effects of tinnitus can worsen over time and may even lead to mental health complications.
Why are dentists at increased risk of tinnitus?
The use of noisy high speed and ultrasonic dental equipment were the primary influencing factors in studies. Researchers found that the compounding time of exposure to noise-emitting dental handpieces and suction equipment is what places dentists at an increased risk.
The NCBI study states, “dental professionals with a history of high-speed handpiece use appear to have poorer hearing thresholds than other dental professionals who do not use those devices.”
The study also found that dentists “reported a higher prevalence of tinnitus symptoms than would be expected based on the sample demographics.”
Between drills, water suction, scrapes, and other noises, there is no denying that dentistry is a loud profession. Because of this, dentists—especially those who do not take active measures to prevent the onset of tinnitus—are statistically more likely to develop tinnitus than the general population.
Hearing loss in dentists:
According to the American Dental Association, repeated exposure to loud, high-frequency noises, increases the prevalence of noise-induced hearing loss amongst dentists. In most cases, there is a gradual loss of hearing threshold.
Symptoms of this condition include:
- Difficulty hearing certain frequencies.
- Difficulty hearing syllables and
- Difficulty hearing in noisy environments.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss is the most common type of hearing loss and is in most cases, permanent.
How dentists can prevent tinnitus and hearing loss?
There are two options for prevention of auditory problems:
- Wear hearing protection or
- Subtract/reduce the use of the handpiece.
The easiest option is the use of custom-made high-fidelity musicians’ earplugs since they are discrete, comfortable, and will not affect communication nor hinder technique any more than other standard protective measures, such as gloves, masks, and eyewear.
Talking about reducing the use of handpiece, dental lasers are, at present, the only instruments that ensure the provision of the same services without excess noise.