Driller noise killer coming to dentists

Darren Allan

January 10, 2011

Not many of us, outside of masochists, enjoy a trip to the dentist. It generally involves sitting in a sterile smelling waiting room, attempting to read a five year old car/gossip magazine while kids run about screaming and/or crying.

Then it’s into the dentist’s room itself, where you lie back and have to suffer the dreaded sound of the drill – for many people, it seems, that’s one of the biggest anxiety causing elements – and the delights of strange tasting pink mouth wash.

But thanks to a new invention from scientists at King’s College London, Brunel University and London South Bank University, while the drill may still be a reality, at least the horrible high pitched noise it makes won’t.

The device (which was originally the brainchild of Professor Brian Millar of King’s Dental Institute) plugs into the patient’s music player, be it MP3 or mobile, and lets them listen to music while using technology similar to noise cancelling headphones to remove the drill sound. The patient can still hear the dentist, however.

According to a BBC report, the device employs a digital signal processor to analyse incoming sounds from mics placed near the drill. It then produces an inverted sound wave to cancel out that unwanted noise in the headphones.

Adaptive filtering technology means that even if the drill whine changes in pitch, the sound will continue to be blocked out. Clever. The inventors are currently seeking capital to make the device commercially available.


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