by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A man wrote,
I am seeking information about ultrasonic dental scaling and hearing damage.
In November 2011, I experienced my first ultrasonic scaling and immediately felt the worst pain in my inner ear ever. After leaving the dentist I had fullness in my ears and constant tinnitus that continues to this day. For the first month I experienced distortion of familiar sounds and the inability the stereo-locate sound sources like birds in trees or automobiles approaching. Cars passing on a gravel road now sounded like a sheet of aluminum being dragged edgewise on asphalt and I no longer heard birds singing in the morning, just the constant ringing in my ears.
I have been a musician since my teens and after this incident it became near impossible to hear certain notes, others made my ears hurt and my uncle who played violin with me complained that I was doing something wrong when I was trying to accompany him. In addition, the constant ringing in my ears has undermined my sitting meditation practice to the point that I can no longer sit for an hour at a time because I get frustrated about the noise in my head.
Another man wrote,
Is noise-induced trauma from ultrasonic teeth cleaning tools usually temporary—even if your ears are already damaged by medications and infection?
The noise I experienced today was rather brief, but it really rattled my ears. The tool’s ultrasonic sound waves didn’t make much noise until it came into contact with the third tooth or so from the back (top teeth). The sound was at just the right pitch and intensity to rattle my ear(s). The same thing happened on the other side of my mouth side too. Other than those brief moments, I had no problems. The hygienist instructed me to wear ear plugs the next time, but I am concerned about sound transmission through the skull.
I am concerned that my ears may not recover. My tinnitus is not loud, but the trauma may have aggravated some hyperacusis. I hope and pray the tinnitus dies down over the next few days.
It’s day four, and my ears are not doing good. ’I’ve never seen them this sensitive before. I cant even watch my hand held DVD player without the sound (no ear phones) causing tinnitus and hyperacusis.
I am very concerned, and frankly, I am scared to death. Ringing in the ears is one thing, but extreme sound sensitivity is another. What can I do to help my situation? Listen to pink noise for a few minutes each day?
I asked this second man, “Were the teeth that rattled your ears teeth that had fillings in them? Or teeth that had root canals? I’m wondering if there was something peculiar about those particular teeth—since no other teeth bothered you.”
Yes, those teeth have fillings, and a few have crowns. The ear discomfort started around # 3 & 4, and # 13 & 14. Truthfully, I don’t recall any ear discomfort while cleaning the lower teeth, but they have crowns and fillings as well, and a three tooth bridge on the left side.
I’ve never looked into ultrasonic tooth cleaning and resulting ear problems—tinnitus, hyperacusis or hearing loss. If anyone reading this has a story to share, I’d love to hear it. What happened to you and what were the results?