Monday, January 31, 2011

Drill here, drill now - with a difference!

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that dentists have a new ally to allay patients' nervousness.

THE piercing sound of a dentist's drill is enough to make most people's teeth ache. Now researchers in Britain have invented a device to cancel out the high-pitched sound made by these mouth-sized jackhammers, which could help some people who are afraid of the ''chair''.

Fear of the drill is one of the most common reasons why many people dread a visit to the dentist, or avoid it altogether.

The device, which works like noise-cancelling headphones, contains a microphone and computer chip which analyses incoming sound waves and inverts those waves coming from the drill, removing the unwanted noise.

Electronic filters also remove unwanted sound waves, even if their amplitude and frequency change while the drill is in use.

As the device cancels out only the drill noise, patients can still hear the dentists and nurses talking to them. It can be attached to an MP3 player or phone, so patients can listen to their own music while unwanted drill sounds are silenced.

There's more at the link.

Hmm . . . my practical-joke alert just went off. If this noise-canceling device can work through an MP3 player, could someone arrange for an MP3 player to play the noise of a dentist's drill as an undertone to all its music? We could drive teenagers utterly batty!



Matt said...

Okay, the noise cancellation would theoretically work just great for all the noise transmitted through the air. However, a drill is in contact with your teeth, and you are going to get a fair amount of bone-conductance noise as well, and no noise-cancellation process that I'm aware can cancel that out.

I wonder/worry about the effect of decoupling the normal auditory stimulus from the bone-conductance auditory stimulus.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. It as always the vibrations that go deeper than the anesthetic that bothered me.

On the other hand, the lack of sound may ease some of the anticipation you have when you are lying in the chair and they spin up that tool.