Objective: Hearing impairment (HI) remains a problem among dentists Hearing loss at speech frequencies was recently reported among dentists and dental hygienists. This study aimed to investigate prevalence and factors associated with perceived HI among dentists.
Methods: In 2009-2010, 100 general dental practitioners (GDPs) and 115 general (medical) practitioners (GPs) (mean ages, 43.7 and 44.4 years) from Rome (Italy), who commenced practice ≥ 10 years ago, were interviewed on a series of occupation- and recreation-related HI risk factors and on HI-associated symptoms (tinnitus, sensation of fullness, hypoacusis). Prevalence of presumptive HI (≥ 1 symptom perceived during workdays and weekends) was assessed and factors associated with presumptive HI were investigated.
Results: Prevalence was 30.0% (95% confidence interval, 21.0-39.0%) and 14.8% (95% confidence interval, 8.3-21.3%) among GDPs and GPs, respectively. Occupation (GDP vs. GP), family history of hypoacusis, hypertension, ear diseases and smoking were significantly associated with presumptive HI. Within GDPs alone, significant associations were found for frequent use of ultrasonic scalers, use of dental turbines aged≥1 year and prosthodontics as prevalent specialty.
Conclusions: GDPs experienced HI risk than GPs. Such a risk was not generalized to all dentists, but was specific for those who frequently used noisy equipment (aged turbines, ultrasonic scalers) during their daily practice.
Clinical significance: GDPs with 10 or more years of practice who routinely use potentially noisy equipment, could be at risk of HI. In order to prevent such condition, daily maintenance and periodical replacement of dental instruments is recommended.
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