Posts Tagged 'hearing aids and dental x rays'

To Hear, or Not To Hear

Today was the day for my dreaded date with the dentist’s drill, after my main chewing gnasher developed a suspicious and rather painful crack recently. My leaving the house routine was even more prolonged than usual, what with all the physical and mental preparation necessary to get a confirmed dental phobic to the surgery. The meticulous tooth brushing came first, then the leaden dragging of feet, whilst letting out small moans of distress whenever within the spouse’s earshot. Then there was the constant having to remind oneself to breathe in order to avoid passing out, a laborious task which makes one fully appreciate the normally unconscious workings of the central nervous system. Once the breathing was sorted, the feeling of faintness and tingling in the extremities subsided long enough for me to reach the bedroom to find the hearing aids. As I popped one into each ear, the traffic noise outside switched on suddenly, just as it always does, and I suddenly felt faint again.

Dentist. Horrible noises. To make matters worse, horrible noises via bone conduction as well as through the lugholes. High frequency horrible noises. I felt my hands go slightly clammy and had to remind myself to start breathing again. If this wasn’t a case for putting the Oticons back in their box, I didn’t know what was. Not to mention the harmful effects of dental x-rays on hearing aids. On reflection, I chose to ignore that one, since my own experiments with NHS hearing aids and ionising radiation have not demonstrated a link thus far, and I’ve got an appointment at the hearing aid clinic tomorrow should anything go wrong.

My thoughts were interrupted by the spouse mumbling unintelligibly from his study.

I hesitated. Maybe going hearing aid-less to the dentist wasn’t such a good idea after all, since there was speech involved. I weighed up the cons. There were quite a few. First up, the waiting room and the extra vigilance required for the name calling; that bit had gone wrong before. Then there was the chairside chat; lipreading is slightly more difficult when your eyes are screwed tightly shut in terror. Did he just say “bite down” or “don’t bite down”? Saying the usual “EH” to everything to ensure proper confirmation is difficult when your paralysed mouth is wedged wide open, plus the proximity of a dental drill makes the usual 50/50 guess strategy response that bit more dangerous. Hmmm, yes, things were definitely coming down on the side of wearing the aids in the chair.

My exacting weighing up of the pros and cons was interrupted by the spouse reminding me that I was going to miss my train if I didn’t get a move on. He even spoke to me from the same room to ensure I got the message.

I realised I needed to make a decision, and a timely flashback to an ancient joke finally helped me make my mind up. It’s the one about the guy who takes a car door with him to the desert so that he can wind the window down if he gets too hot.

Eureka! I could wear the aids to the dentist, listen to the first bout of high intensity drilling, then turn the volume right down so that I could appreciate that the noise could be much worse. The large number of clicks on the volume buttons required to do this would also enable me to appreciate getting the one click ‘Mute’ setting activated at Clinic O tomorrow after two previously unsuccessful attempts. Once the drilling sound was turned down, I could then turn my attention back to breathing, and marvel at the beauty of the human autonomic nervous system, whilst reclining for over an hour in a very comfy leather chair with its own pink drink dispenser…and all of this when I should be at work. Life-affirming positivity conjured from extreme negativity! Result.

I headed for the front door with a slightly less leaden step than before, and made a quieter moan of distress whilst passing the spouse.

X-Ray Exposé



“What have I done to you!” I said with remorse to my little beige friend as I Googled ‘hearing aids and X-rays’. I had unwittingly subjected it to a series of dental X-rays last week, and my Google search turned out to be a classic case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

‘Do not wear a hearing aid when having medical diagnostic procedures, including Xrays, CT scans or MRI scans’, warned the search results almost unanimously. The only exception was a lone abstract from an academic paper entitled ‘Dental X rays found to have no effect on hearing aids’, but it was written in 1986 in the pre-digital era and some of the contributors had mighty strange names. Could I, MR Dancer, trust DL Armbruster and JS Laughter? Could the whole X-ray thing just be over-cautiousness on the part of hearing aid manufacturers as JS Laughter et al inferred? Or was there actually a real possibility of a ‘very unusual accident’ as one of the hearing aid vendors in their study implied?

I concluded that if there was even the remotest possibility of a ‘very unusual accident’, then I would be a very likely candidate, but exactly what kind of accident were they referring to? Perhaps it was not the hearing aid which had been in danger that fateful evening in my brother’s surgery…perhaps it had been me! Shit. I pulled back my hair and examined the back of my ear for fatal radiation burns in the shape of a Siemens Chroma S. All seemed perfectly normal, but I still couldn’t get a vision of the ghost of Marie Curie out of my head. She was Googling my posthumous paper entitled ‘Digital hearing aids act as a deadly magnet for dental X-rays in people with cookie bite hearing loss’. I needed bona fide authoritative clarification that I was going to live. Quick.

‘Why should I not wear a hearing aid during X-rays?’ I asked Google.

‘Why should I not wear a bra to bed?’ popped up in the search window. Damn those search engine predictive algorithms. I was momentarily sidetracked by wondering why anyone would want to wear a bra to bed, since I can’t wait to get out of mine at the end of the day, but I soon regained my focus. I hurriedly re-entered the intended search query and hoped that my internet browsing history would never enter the public domain at an employment tribunal.

I scanned the search results and was rewarded with the shock news that ‘Subjecting your hearing aids to X-ray technology may cause them to malfunction’.

Well at least the lead coffin was off, but what about the hearing aid malfunction. I needed more precise information. Was it the kind of malfunction that could lead to me occasionally picking up Radio 2 and taxi control centres? I reckoned I could live with that. Hopefully it wouldn’t be the kind of malfunction which would cause the hearing aid to pick up the sound of every whirring fan within a radius of ten miles, that would drive one mad…oh, wait a minute.

‘What kind of malfunction will X-rays cause to hearing aids?’ I asked Google impatiently. I was getting right fed up by now.

‘X-ray radiation (e.g., CT scans, MRI scans) can cause interference and stop the device from working.’ came the reply. ‘Remove hearing aids and keep them outside the room during these procedures’.

So there you have it folks. If you don’t want to waste your life Googling your mistakes retrospectively, just take the damn things off when you’re having an X-ray, as your long-forgotten hearing aid manual advises, and hope nobody says anything important until you’ve put ’em back on again. Simple.

Update 21.07.11: The Siemens Chroma S appears to have come to no harm despite undergoing 4 dental X-rays in quick succession.

Update 20.02.13: The Oticon Spirit Zests had four x-rays along with my bunion, and are good as new.

Update 01.09.13: The Oticons have had a round of dental x-rays and have survived the experience much better than me…


A Visit From The Tooth Fairy


It’s been horribly busy at work lately, and the last thing I needed was the mysterious arrival of a pulsating hard lump on the roof of my mouth. I’m generally rather slow in getting round to making dentist and doctor’s  appointments, but I make an exception for anything which has developed its own pulse.

After a pleading phone call to my dentist brother, I was in his surgery the next evening. I was half an hour early, as always, and my extreme punctuality combined with some ill-judged fake nodding and smiling to the receptionist in response to something inaudible, caused a brief case of mistaken identity in the waiting room. Fortunately, the person who actually did have an appointment at 5:10 finally got it and I amused myself in the meantime with the atrocious ‘Britain’s Got talent’ on the flatscreen telly.

A little while later, the singing chihuahuas in a shopping basket being booed off the stage were a memory, and I was prostrate in the dentist’s chair, being probed in the palate by a succession of ever longer pointy instruments. Strangely, I couldn’t feel any of them.

“Ah, yes,” announced big bruv triumphantly, “I think we’ve got an ‘unerupted 5’ here…”

My heart began beating visibly in my chest, and I wished I’d never furtively read all of big bruv’s dental textbooks when he was a student. I sat up in horror.

“What! I’ve got a tooth coming down through the roof of my mouth? At 45? Oh my god…”

I went a little faint as my over-active imagination instantly fashioned a David Cronenberg extraction scene in horrible close-up. It was a hideously creative mashup of the Tooth Gun sequence in Existenz merged with some graphic bone chiselling scenes from the fascinating ‘Children’s Cranio-facial Surgery’ documentary I’d watched on BBC2 the other week while the spouse was out. To add to my rapidly increasing anxiety, a dentist’s drill started up somewhere along the corridor, lending some unwanted real sound effects to my already vivid mental picture.

An x-ray was done, and as I waited for bruv to re-appear with the results, I squirmed at the ever louder high-pitched drilling going on along the corridor. I couldn’t hear any screams, but with my auditory track record that didn’t really mean anything. When the door finally opened, I was relieved to see that the drilling noise was actually the cleaning lady hoovering the carpet because everyone else had now gone home.

“Hmmmm…” said big bruv as he peered at the x-ray. “Strange. It’s not an unerupted 5 after all. Don’t know what it is… think this needs a second opinion.”

I was elated that the horror extraction through the roof of the mouth was off, but dismayed that a second opinion was required since in my experience, they’re usually far less cheerful than the first one. My white-knuckle grip on the neckline of my cardigan tightened as dentist No. 2 deliberated over some extremely faint hairlines on the x-ray. The second opinion was, that a piece of root left behind from an extraction 35 years ago might be lurking invisibly and causing the abscess. A series of x-rays from increasingly bizarre angles followed, but revealed nothing conclusive, other than that it’s a good idea to take your hearing aid off before having an x-ray, so it’s a case of taking some antibiotics and waiting to see what happens next.

Nothing like a nice bit of suspense now and then…


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