Sound News: Mack The Knife?

November 13th, 2011
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A survey of UK surgeons has found that 90% listen to music while they operate, with half choosing rock music, 17% favouring pop music and 11% classical music.

The majority said music helps create a “harmonious and calm atmosphere”, while a third said the music prevents them from getting bored. Plastic surgeons were the most likely to listen to music, and ear, nose and throat surgeons the least likely.

The survey was conducted to celebrate the release of the latest series of the hospital drama House on Blu-ray DVD, and echoes the result of earlier work in 1994 by researchers at State University of New York-Buffalo, who found found that surgeons showed lower signs of stress and performed tasks better when listening to their own choice of music – though when somebody else picks the tune, stress rises and performance drops. This phenomenon is one the Three Cs of unproductive sound mentioned in Julian Treasure’s book Sound Business: Control (lack of control is often stressful, as when someone else has chosen the music), Contrast (variable sound is much more distracting than relatively constant sound)  and Conversation (the most distracting sound of all when you are trying to listen to your own internal voice to write or plan).

One proviso for the music-loving surgeons: 25% of anaesthetists dislike pumping tunes because they can disguise or distract from important auditory cues from  heart rate monitors and audible alarms. As we always say, music is a potent sound and must be deployed with care and consideration, taking all its effects into account.

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