Johnson City, Tenn — A doctor of audiology student at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) is now investigating whether dentists are at a higher risk of hearing loss due to excessive drilling noise.

Krisztina Bucsi Johnson is recruiting Johnson City area dentists to participate in her study, which will also attempt to measure the degree of risk of hearing loss associated with high-speed drills. She recently received funding support from the National Hearing Conservation Association Foundation.

A third-year audiology student, Johnson got the idea for the research after having worked as a dental assistant for 8 years before enrolling in the audiology program at ETSU.

She said in the press statement. “Working beside a dentist, I know the high-pitched sound of dental drills. There have been some prior studies on the subject, but I’m aiming to document more detailed data. I’ve spoken to a number of dentists through the years, and most don’t use any hearing protection.”

The study will be conducted at dental offices using portable instruments, Johnson said, and all participants will receive a free clinical hearing evaluation. She will measure a dentist’s hearing threshold prior to the start of the day and then again at the end of the day, as well as the sound level of the high-speed dental drill. Johnson also plans to take those same auditory measures of dentists who use hearing protection and compare the data.

“I’ll determine if dentists experience hearing loss and, if they do, document the consequences of that hearing loss in hopes of persuading more of them to use hearing protection,” Johnson said. “Another possibility is that the data could persuade dental drill manufacturers to produce drills that are safer for the human ear. If this project is successful, I plan to expand the scope and include dental hygienists and dental assistants as well.”

If Johnson’s research does show a prevalence of hearing loss in dental health workers, then audiologists and hearing aid manufacturers may have a targeted and unrealized market opportunity, educating dentists about their increased risk for hearing loss.

The research project was already under way when Johnson received a phone call from Dr Theresa Schulz, president of the National Hearing Conservation Association Scholarship Foundation, who informed Johnson her work had garnered the foundation’s $5,000 Student Research Award.

Dentists between 30 and 65 years old who are actively practicing in the Johnson City area can enroll in the study or obtain more information by sending e-mails to [email protected] or by calling (423) 418-1639.

SOURCE: East Tennessee State University (ETSU)