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Systematic Review

The relationship between exposure to noise and hearing loss in orthopaedics

a systematic review

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In the UK, the agricultural, military, and construction sectors have stringent rules about the use of hearing protection due to the risk of noise-induced hearing loss. Orthopaedic staff may also be at risk due to the use of power tools. The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have clear standards as to what are deemed acceptable occupational levels of noise on A-weighted and C-weighted scales. The aims of this review were to assess the current evidence on the testing of exposure to noise in orthopaedic operating theatres to see if it exceeds these regulations.


A search of PubMed and EMBASE databases was conducted using PRISMA guidelines. The review was registered prospectively in PROSPERO. Studies which assessed the exposure to noise for orthopaedic staff in operating theatres were included. Data about the exposure to noise were extracted from these studies and compared with the A-weighted and C-weighted acceptable levels described in the HSE regulations.


A total of 15 studies were deemed eligible. These included a total of 386 orthopaedic operations and the use of 64 orthopaedic instruments. A total of 294 operations (76%) and 45 instruments (70%) exceeded the regulations on an A-weighted scale, and 22% (10 of 46) of operations exceeded the maximum C-weighted peak acceptable level of noise. Noise-induced hearing loss was reported in 28 of 55 orthopaedic staff members (50.9%).


Safe levels of noise can be exceeded in orthopaedic operations, and when using orthopaedic instruments. Employers have clear policies about exposure to noise in the workplace but have yet to identify orthopaedic theatres as a potential at-risk area. Orthopaedic staff need education, monitoring, and protection, while employers should consider regular assessments of staff in orthopaedic theatres and offer methods to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2023;105-B(6):602–609.

Correspondence should be sent to Dylan Mistry. E-mail:

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