Background: Communication serves as a central component to patient safety and efficiency in the operating room. Sentinel event data from The Joint Commission in 2013 identified failures of communication during surgery as one of the leading root causes of error and poor patient outcomes. Recent research on hearing-critical jobs has advocated for functional hearing assessment procedures that take into account the specific noise environment of a job. This recommendation centers on the fact that speech recognition depends largely on the particular qualities of the background noise and is not accurately predicted by pure tone audiograms.

Given the evidence of potentially high noise levels in the operating room and the essential nature for effective communication in this setting, research is needed to investigate the perceptions of operating room personnel on their ability to communicate. This research could guide further investigation into auditory fitness for duty standards and evaluate whether noise reduction techniques should be employed in the operating room.

Objectives: The objectives of this study are to determine: 1) If operating room personnel perceive and/or realize that they are having difficulty hearing and communicating in the operating room due to occupational noise, 2) If the difficulty in communication is a hindrance and an issue of patient safety, and 3) What is the average noise exposure (dB and time exposed) for operating room personnel during various operating room cases