2016 Funded Project


Project Title:

Evaluation of noise levels in the work environment on dental assistants and dental hygienists hearing and wellness

Lead Principal Applicant

Laura Dempster DipDH, BScD(DH), MSc, PhD
Title: Associate Professor
Organization: Faculty of Dentistry, University of Toronto
Address: 124 Edward Street, Toronto, Ontario M5G 1G6


Stella Ng PhD Reg CASLPO 
Scientist & Assistant Professor
Director of Research, Centre for Faculty Development
Education Scientist, Centre for Ambulatory Care Education
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Speech-Language Pathology
Cross-Appointed Scientist, The Wilson Centre
Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto

Jeff Crukley PhD, FAAA
Senior Research Scientist, Starkey Hearing Technologies
6600 Washington Ave. S., Eden Prairie, MN 55344
Adjunct Lecturer, Dept. of Speech-Language Pathology
Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto




Background: Gaps exist in our knowledge and understanding of noise exposure in dental practice.  More specifically, the impact of noise exposure has not been adequately documented in dental personnel other than dentists, and studies have not explored the long term effect of higher than normal noise levels on personal wellness or examined workplace conditions and how persistent moderate noise levels impact communication and concentration in the dental office workplace. Need exists for a comprehensive study of dental assistants (DAs) and dental hygienists (DHs), to assess the auditory conditions of the dental workplace environment, and the impact of these conditions on working conditions and worker wellness.  

Objective: (1) to assess noise exposure experienced by DAs and DHs in the dental office and (2) investigate the implications of this workplace condition on individual wellness.   

Methods: 20 DAs/DHs will be purposefully sampled in a mixed method naturalistic study.  Participant hearing will be assessed pre- and post-study. Work-related noise levels will be measured using lapel dosimeters worn by DAs/DHs for 2 weeks.  Participants will be interviewed to discuss their perceptions of their general wellbeing. Additional information (blood pressure and coping style) will be collected and compared to qualitative and quantitative data.

Impact: The impact of this routine noise exposure has been debated for many years; however research to date has been inconclusive.  Concern has been expressed that noise levels found in dental practice are at an intensity, duration and/or frequency that could result in noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) or tinnitus.  However, even if no change in hearing is identified, the absence of hearing loss is not to be conflated with the absence of ill effects from persistent noise exposure in dental practices. This study is the first to consider the impact of work related noise exposure and wellness in dental professionals.