Hearing Loss Is Common Among Orthopaedic Surgeons

A systematic review finds that dangerously high noise levels are the norm in arthroplasty operating rooms — but it can be addressed

What’s the Claim?

A thoughtfully analyzed systematic review of 15 studies on orthopaedic surgeons’ occupational exposures to high levels of noise found that we commonly exceed the safe ranges used in other comparable industries. Most of the studies were performed in the context of hip and/or knee arthroplasty. This seems true whether assessed as peak noise levels or as a function of noise levels over time (such as might occur in an 8-hour surgical day from using noisy tools like oscillating saws for several procedures). In two studies in this systematic review, audiologists found that 50% of orthopaedic surgeons have noise-induced hearing loss.

How’s It Stack Up?

The findings here were pretty consistent — 11 of the 15 studies concluded that the observed noise levels put orthopaedic surgeons at risk for hearing loss because of occupational exposure. A systematic review in otolaryngology (mainly mastoid surgery) concluded similarly, as did a study performed on nurses and surgical technologists who worked across all specialties in an 18-OR hospital, which concluded that orthopaedic surgery was noisier than the other specialties they evaluated.

What’s Our Take?