11 October 2005

Surgeons should cut out the noise

As a workplace, the operating room is hazardous to the hearing. The operating equipment of the surgeons often makes so much noise that it carries with it the risk of hearing loss. The noise from the electrical equipment during knee and hip operations exceeds the allowable maximum peak levels of 140 dB. The dangerous noise levels were found in a study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery.

The researchers investigated the noise levels during five knee and hip operations at the Taruanga Hospital in New Zealand. Measurements were taken at the ears of the surgeon with measured peak levels of 145 dB. Peak levels above 140 dB can cause instant hearing damage.

The surgeons are often unaware of the risk because the noise is brief, and many surgeons fail to protect their hearing during the operations. At peak levels, above 140 dB, Occupational Safety and Health guidelines recommend the use of hearing protection and regular hearing screenings.

An earlier study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery reported that 11 staff members out of 22 in the operating rooms of the St. Mary's Hospital in London suffered from hearing loss. The average hearing loss was measured at 12.3 dB. All those examined had worked in operating rooms for more than five years.

The researchers warned that the more often the surgeons are exposed to the hazardous noise, the higher the risk of noise induced hearing loss.

Source: Noise exposure in the orthopaedic operating theatre: A significant health hazard, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery and Noise-induced hearing loss in orthopaedic staff, Journal of bone and joint surgery.

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