Listen Up Dentists, Part 2

Dentistry is known for the adage “Ignore your teeth and they will go away.” Perhaps audiology can mimic this sentiment with a similar thought; “Ignore your inner ear hair cells and they too will go away”. Not quite as catchy, but an interesting parallel! I, like most people, am used to being on the other end of a dental drill or electric toothbrush. I am aware of the high pitch squeal that the equipment emits, and to be honest it is up there with fingernails on a blackboard when it comes to unpleasant sounds. The equipment associated with dentistry, like all sources of  noise, has the potential to cause permanent hearing loss depending on the loudness level and the amount of time a person is exposed to it. So why don’t those in the dental field wear hearing protection?  I recently met one that does.

Dr. James Nitschke, the owner of Canal Town Dental  in Pittsford,  has been practicing dentistry over 25 years, however his love of dentistry began at a young age since his father was also a dentist. Along with this early education came an early exposure to loud noise. I met Dr. Nitschke in his office to ask him about his history of noise exposure and his unique perspective on the use of hearing protection while practicing in the office.

He first began using hearing protection about 4 to 5 years ago, when he started to experience tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Tinnitus is often a predecessor of noise induced hearing loss; sort of the first red flag that something may be happening in the ear. He initially tried earplugs but found these too occluding, making it difficult to converse with patients.  He then tried the SensGard device after seeing the product first online and then in a retail store. What Dr. Nitschke likes about the SensGard is that he could still hear his patients while wearing it. This is the backbone of the SensGard brand, where the formula  Hear Now, Hear Later holds true. We know people in different settings need to continue to hear at some level to communicate or to hear other environmental sounds. SensGard achieves this while simultaneously protecting the ear from harmful sounds. Another feature that Dr. Nitschke liked was the ability to change out units between patients, cleaning and sterilizing one pair while wearing another pair.

Upon researching the topic of hearing loss in the dentistry field, it was evident that although it has been well documented that the potential for hearing loss is there, it is dependent on a variety of factors. The noise levels and time using the equipment are obvious. Other factors may be the underlying physiology of the person. Some people, based on genetics,  are more prone to hearing loss than others. Some have outside hobbies, such as woodworking, that may expose them to other noise sources. The bottom line is to recognize the potential for hearing loss is there with any profession, or hobby, that exposes one to noise above 85 dB. After recognition comes action. Have your hearing checked by an audiologist to establish a baseline test and to converse about hearing protection. The use of hearing protection may be initially embarrassing for some. Think of it as another layer of protection from a somewhat hostile world we live it. We guard our skin with sunblock, our eyes with protective goggles or sunglasses, why not protect our vulnerable ears from undue wear and tear from noise? Think of it as insurance to hear well into the future. Hear Now, Hear Later, Hear Long!