It is widely known that the sound of the dental drill is the prime cause of anxiety about dental treatment, and some patients avoid trips to the dentist because of it. This new device could help address people's fears and encourage them to seek the oral healthcare treatment they need.
The prototype device works in a similar way to noise-cancelling headphones but is designed to deal with the very high pitch of the dental drill. Patients would simply unplug their headphones, plug the device into their MP3 player or mobile phone, and then plug the headphones into the device, allowing them to listen to their own music while completely blocking out the unpleasant sound of the drill and suction equipment. The patient can still hear the dentist and other members of the dental team speaking to them but other unwanted sounds are filtered out by the device.
Containing a microphone and a chip that analyses the incoming sound wave, the device produces an inverted wave to cancel out unwanted noise. It also uses technology called 'adaptive filtering' where electronic filters lock onto sound waves and removes them, even if the amplitude and frequency change as the drill is being used.