Researchers at the University of Kentucky Medical Center conducted a test involving 15 surgeons with experience ranging from one to 30 years. The surgeons were evaluated on their ability to understand and repeat back words under four variable conditions. These included quiet, background noise in the operating room with music, background noise in the operating room without music, and noise filtered through a surgical mask. The surgeons were tested while performing surgical tasks and while they were not. The experiment was conducted to determine how different variables affect the number of surgical errors that may occur.
The Journal of the American College of Surgeons published the results in its May issue, noting that speech comprehension decreased when background noise was present and the words were unpredictable. However, music appeared to be a barrier only when the surgeon was engaged in a task. There has long been disagreement among healthcare professionals over whether music can sooth operating room surgeons and staff or whether it is a distraction.