New App Helps Dentists Save Their Hearing

March 1, 2017
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN

Noisy handpicks and ultrasonic scalers have been shown to approach decibel levels that can cause hearing loss. Are you at risk in your dental practice? A new app developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health will help you get a sense for just how loud the equipment in your practice is. It uses the microphone built into your smartphone.

Is the equpiment in your dental office causing hearing loss? Apparently, there's an app for that. This new app will measure decibel levels using your smartphone's microphone.

Occupational noise-induced hearing loss can be a real threat for dentists and anyone else working in a dental practice. Now, there is a new tool dentists can use to measure sound levels in the office.

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The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) developed the Sound Level Meter App. The mobile app was created with the goal of allowing workers in all types of industries to measure and display real-time noise exposure data to raise awareness about working conditions. Individuals using the app will be able to make informed decisions about potential hearing hazards, and scientists and occupational health experts will be able to build job exposure databases used to promote better hearing health and prevention efforts.

NIOSH estimates that up to 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels annually. Elevated noise levels can have a profoundly damaging effect on an individual’s quality of life, as well as cause substantial economic losses to society.

Noise exposure in dental offices is not usually a major problem, but some studies have shown dental professionals are at risk for hearing loss. Equipment like handpicks or ultrasonic scalers can generate noise that approaches established exposure limits.

The app is not meant to replace professional sound level meters or noise dosimeters. It also cannot be used for compliance purposes. But it does provide a readout of noise levels using a smartphone’s built-in microphone. Users can also connect an external microphone if they prefer. Sound levels are reported in decibels, and the app can be used to find information related to noise and hearing loss prevention.

Mobile app users can save and share measurement data, and if the GPS feature is enabled on the user’s smartphone, they can use it to provide the exact geospatial location of the noise measurement. Currently, the Sound Level Meter App is available for download through the Apple iTunes store.

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