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Hearing loss and high-speed dental tools

cute tinnitus, however, can last days or weeks and is most commonly caused by exposure to loud noise such as music at a rock concert, power tools or gunfire. The subsequent ringing indicates damage to the tiny hair-like structures within the inner ear and if exposure to loud noise continues, permanent hearing loss is likely.

Most of the current high-speed hand pieces, such as high-speed drills and scalers used by dental professionals, are between 90 to 100 decibels, says Folmer. That's the equivalent of a gas lawnmower or other power tools, which are loud enough to cause hearing loss over time. And hand pieces have actually gotten "quieter" over the years with the advent of modern technologies. However, very few dental professionals or students interviewed for the study so far, wear earplugs to protect themselves from this noise.

None of the 54 dental schools nationally are known to require dental students to wear ear protection while treating patients.

School of Dentistry Dean Jack Clinton, D.M.D., welcomed Folmer's study. "Any research that can help us keep students healthy and safe is a top priority," said Clinton. "We hope just the fact that the study is being done will continue to help raise awareness within the dental school about the possible hearing loss from high-speed dental instruments so dental professionals can make good decisions as they go through their careers."

Folmer is conducting his research this summer with Clackamas High School senior April Kaelin, a student he is mentoring through Portland State University's Apprenticeships in Science and Engineering (ASE) program. Folmer and April are investigating noise-induced hearing loss by conducting hearing tests with a portable audiometer, examining ear canals with an otoscope and asking participants to answer questions about occupational and recreational noise exposure. They also have measured the sound levels of different hand pieces while they're used on p
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Contact: Sydney Clevenger
clevenge@ohsu.edu
503-418-1792
Oregon Health & Science University
14-Aug-2006


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