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Hearing loss and high-speed dental tools

atients.

"We want to compare the hearing tests of dentists, dental assistants, and dental hygienists to those of dental students and people of comparable age in other professions," said Folmer. "We also want to examine whether there's a correlation between hearing thresholds and the amount of time that dental professionals are exposed to loud devices at work. And if dental professionals exhibit evidence of noise-induced hearing loss, can it be correlated with occupational or recreational noise exposure? Our hypothesis is that if dental professionals utilize hearing protective devices, they will exhibit less noise-induced hearing loss than dental professionals who do not protect their ears."

Charles (Mark) Malloy, D.M.D., M.S., assistant professor of prosthodontics at the OHSU School of Dentistry, wore ear protection for most of his 21 years of dentistry in the military. "Hearing loss from high-speed hand pieces has been a suggestion in dentistry for as long as I can remember," said Malloy. "My dad was a dentist so I grew up around dentists and there were a lot of them that couldn't hear. It sounds reasonable to me that high-speed hand pieces may contribute to long-term hearing loss." Malloy said he stopped wearing ear protection a decade ago when he joined the School of Dentistry and began seeing patients only one day a week, but the study is making him consider using ear protection again. "Ears are pretty nice!" said Malloy, with a chuckle.

Rita Patterson, D.M.D., an assistant professor of prosthodontics who introduces the hand pieces to first-year students, also is interested in the study. "We tell the students that they can wear earplugs, which are supplied to students as a standard part of their dental equipment. There are times during the course that I teach that we have 75 high-speed hand pieces running at the same time [there are 75 dental students] for more than two hours at a time. Many instructors, including myself, wonder if
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Contact: Sydney Clevenger
clevenge@ohsu.edu
503-418-1792
Oregon Health & Science University
14-Aug-2006


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