Portland, Ore. -- After 36 years in private dental practice, Fred Kreutzer, D.M.D., began struggling to hear. It's been five years since he retired from his practice and Kreutzer now wears hearing aids in both ears. Although he has a family history of hearing loss, he believes the high-speed tools he worked with eight hours a day for so many years may have played a role in his hearing troubles. "I think if you listen to any high-pitched noise for any length of time, it will get to you eventually," said Kreutzer, an assistant professor in operative dentistry at the OHSU School of Dentistry (www.ohsu.edu/sod). "But in my case, with a family history of hearing loss, it may be hereditary, as well."
Whether high-speed dental tools contribute to long-term hearing loss is the subject of a study currently under way in the OHSU Tinnitus Clinic and the School of Dentistry. According to Robert Folmer, Ph.D., one of the study leaders, published research is mixed about whether high-speed dental tools contribute to noise-induced hearing loss over time.
"Over the years, we have seen dentists in the OHSU Tinnitus Clinic who were convinced that long-term exposure to sound from high-speed hand pieces contributed to their high-frequency hearing loss and tinnitus," said Folmer. "These anecdotes, in combination with the research being divided about high-speed hand pieces playing a role in hearing loss, prompted our study. We hope the study is a good first step toward scientific evidence behind the anecdotes we've been hearing." Fulmer is associate professor of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery, School of Medicine, and chief of clinical services at the OHSU Tinnitus Clinic, Oregon Hearing Research Center.
Tinnitus, or ringing of the ears, can be constant or intermittent and can include buzzing, hissing or sizzling sounds. Many people experience momentary tinnitus, a high-pitched tone that lasts up to 30 seconds. A
Contact: Sydney Clevenger
Oregon Health & Science University