Why Headphones in Surgery?


headphones in surgery

Headphones before surgery

Have you had headphones in surgery before?  This is increasingly happening in operating rooms around the world.  If so, you know that today, most surgeons play their preferred music in the OR.  Most of the time, they choose the music that they prefer.  I’m totally in support of the surgeon having his preferred music, but rarely is this the music that the patient needs to hear.

When preparing for surgery, the patient needs slow, soothing, steady, simple textured, purely instrumental music. That is likely NOT what the surgeon will be choosing.   The surgeon wants music that will help keep his energy and focus at a high level, sometimes rock and roll, sometimes upbeat jazz, sometime classical.  Ir order for the best surgical outcomes,  the patient needs to have headphones!

When the patient listens to their ideal music through lightweight, cordless headphones, such as the ones John has on in this photo, he can have the slow, steady, soothing music that will calm jangled nerves, stabilize breathing, blood pressure and body temperature, and decrease the need for as much anxiety medication and pain medication.  It may even decrease the amount of anesthesia required, because when the patient is relaxed prior to surgery, it takes less anesthesia to put them under.  And then the surgeon can have his own preferred music coming through speakers in the OR for him and for the staff to entrain with.

In addition to all the benefits for the patient and the surgeon, the hospital also benefits because in our research studies, patients who utilized the Surgical Serenity headphones had higher patient satisfaction ratings, across the board!

Another benefit is that HIPAA compliance is improved when patients are wearing the headphones in the pre-surgical area where medical staff is often discussing details of upcoming procedures with patients who are waiting in close proximity with only a curtain separating them.

To purchase the pre-programmed Surgical Serenity Headphones, click HERE.


Surgical Serenity Solutions: a few words about our music


Surgical Serenity Solutions exists to create a surgical experience that is less stressful for the patient, speed recovery, and that will improve over-all outcomes!  That said, what exactly is our proprietary music all about?  Well, I’ll go so far as to say that they main idea is to get rhythmic entrainment established through the use of slow, steady, soothing, music.  As a concert pianist, musicologist, and therapist, I have chosen music that fits that definition, in a variety of genres.  Our first playlist is still our primary playlist and it is the one we’ve sold the most of.  It is a classical piano playlist and contains 23 lesser-known classical pieces that I purposely chose because of their ability to help the patient entrain, or synchronize their heart-rate, breathing, and emotional state, quickly and easily.

When patients put the headphones on for the first-time in my presence, they invariably get a smile on their face, close their eyes, and say “ahhhh…that’s beautiful!!”  I purposely chose music that is not well known, because people have such strong association with music, and, just in case it’s a piece that someone might have a negative association with, I chose music that the average piano student would not have encountered.

However, it is not at all necessary to love classical music or even be familiar with it, to greatly benefit from this playlist.  The only time you’ll really hear it is as you’re going to sleep (under general anesthesia) or as you’re waking up.  If you have access to the headphones or to our proprietary music (we do sell JUST the music!), before your procedure, then you can practice relaxing while listening to the music, and condition your mind and body to relax as you lie down and start the music.  By the time you’re ready for surgery, you will quickly relax by the end of the first piece.

Soon we will offer a New Age playlist, a jazz-style playlist, a folk-style playlist, and more.  Eventually, we’ll have multiple options within each genre!  There is literally no other company that offers such a powerful, yet simple  solution.  To buy, just click on the link www.SurgicalSerenitySolutions.com/buy.


Three Questions you’ll want to ask when considering Surgical Serenity Solutions? Some FAQs


The concept of using music for the patient during surgery is still a new concept for many people.  But the research is coming in!  Even when you are asleep from anesthesia, your body STILL responds to the slow, steady pulse of the right music!  How do I know this?  Because I am a clinical musicologist who has spent the past 25 years studying this phenomenon and helping surgery patients create their own playlists from their favorite music, and then creating the Surgical Serenity Solution for those that either don’t have time to choose their own preferred music or would rather get something that is ready to go and proven effective!!  Here are some more of the questions I often get:

Q1.  Why should I use music before, during and after surgery if I’ll be asleep anyway?

A1.  When you listen to soothing, steady, instrumental music before surgery (or other anxiety-provoking medical procedure) research documents measurable decreases in anxiety medications; when music continues into surgery, there is not only less anesthesia, but stabilized blood pressure, body temp, heart rate and respiration rate.  The body synchronizes with the slow, steady tempo of the music and has a lower report of pain perception.  After surgery, into the recovery room, the patient awakens with less nausea and vomiting, better oriented to time and place, and requiring less pain medication!  This is big!

Q2.  How can talk to my doctor about wanting to use the Surgical Serenity Solution?

A2.  If you go to www.SurgicalSerenitySolutions.com, you will see a link to the blog.  Click on that and in the right-hand margin you will see a link to our complimentary report “How to Talk with your Doctor about using Music in Surgery.”  The brief report includes research studies that have been done, documenting all the positive benefits to patient when the right kind of music is used during surgery.

Q3.  Why can’t I just bring my own iPod with earbuds of headphones?

A3.  You can probably do this, but then the surgical team has to try and avoid the cord that is hanging down to connect iPod with headphones or earbuds.  Our pre-programmed headphones are totally cordless and do not transmit any signal that could interfere with other devices in OR.  Also, our headphones will be brand-new for you and completely sanitized and disinfected.  And while your music may be favorite music and enjoyable, our proprietary classical blend has been specifically chosen to entrain or synchronize with your heart-rate and breathing.

At the request of many potential surgery patients, I will be publishing more of these Q and As so let me know what YOUR questions are!


Music and Surgery: Research on Benefits Continues to Emerge


When you hear someone say that music before, during and after surgery is beneficial, you assume that its a certain type of music that has been specifically chosen for surgery, right?  After talking to people and working with patients and physicians and nurses about this for 25 years, I’ve heard it all!

It started out primarily with the surgeon deciding that he would be happier if HE had music playing in the OR, so he chose music that he felt would help him do a better job operating.  I’ve heard of surgeon’s choosing classical, rock and roll, smooth jazz, chant, and lots more.  This music usually is played through iPod speakers on a counter or shelf, or even through a boombox on the floor.

The thought was that the patient was either under general anesthesia and wouldn’t really hear it or they would be under regional anesthesia and would probably also enjoy it!  Pretty “iffy” I’d say, since taste in music varies wildly.  Then I came along in the late 90’s saying that even when patient was under general anesthesia, they could benefit from having their own slow, steady music, because of a process known as rhythmic entrainment.

The way this works is that our bodies respond to a nearby strong, steady beat by synchronizing with it, or entraining with it!  This is a well-documented phenomenon, first noticed in the 1700’s by a Dutch physicist named Daniel Huygens.  One of the things the anesthesiologist and staff do during surgery is to keep the heartbeat, breathing, blood pressure and body temperature at a resting, normal level.  This can be greatly helped along by tapping into rhythmic entrainment, utilizing music with a slow, steady beat and a soothing mood.

This is the music that we have already programmed onto your Surgical Serenity headphones to achieve the Surgical Serenity Solution!  A research study that came out just a couple of years ago reported that listening to music “during all three stages proved beneficial. Overall, patients who listened to music were less anxious, required less sedative medication, recovered more quickly and reported better satisfaction with their medical experience. But while some studies show that listening to classical music could yield the most positive results, the latest findings underscore the importance of taking into account patients’ musical tastes.” –

To that, I would add that when the patient is going under general anesthesia, probably classical music is best overall.  Our study here at the VA Hospital utilized exclusively classical music, and although most of the men were not classical music afficianados, once they had been explained why this specific music was chosen, they were happy to give it a chance…and experienced all the benefits listed above!!

The comment below was from a blog that was citing this study above, done at the University of Kentucky by music therapists.  However, it is not necessary to have a music therapist present to use our pre-programmed surgical headphones!  That’s one of the money-saving benefits to hospital and patient.

I will write lots more about this in future blog posts but do let me know your thoughts and your questions!  Thank you!

See more at: http://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2012/11/20/how-music-therapy-may-benefit-surgery-patients/#comments

June Pegram Says:

I had a full hysterectomy in 2005 at Stanford and my physician provided me with a cd to listen to in preparation for the surgery. The premise was to listen to the cd an follow the exercises provided along with the music. Having the music, prepared me in ways that I never would have dreamed- it actually changed my life, even to this day. There was no pre-op nervousness and before I knew it, I was in my recovery room still listening to the music. What a peaceful and relaxing way to enter something normally so stressful. My recovery was just as wonderful and I listened to the cd every night during recovery. Years later I find myself humming a few bars of the relaxation song to calm me down when I am tense. The cd has since been lost to me during several moves, but I truly wish I still had it. Music is very beneficial to the psyche and physical attributes towards preparation and healing and I will use it from now on…

– See more at: http://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2012/11/20/how-music-therapy-may-benefit-surgery-patients/#comments


Entrainment vs. Entertainment


People often ask me, when they first see the word “entrainment” if I meant “entertainment.”  We all know what entertainment is, and because I am a performing musician, people assume that I have misspelled the word entertainment, but no, entrainment is very, very different!

Think of a time when you went to a concert of any kind and when the music started, the rhythmic nature of it made you start clapping, tapping or moving your whole body in synch with the rhythm!  That’s entrainment!  The phenomenon of entrainment was named in

In the Journal “Cortex” this was written as the abstract of an article on entrainment:

Wherever human beings live, and however they may organize their affairs, they gather

from time to time to sing and dance together, often in a ritual setting. In doing so they

synchronize their voices and bodily movements to a shared, repeating interval of time, the

musical pulse, beat or tactus.  We take this capacity to “entrain” to an evenly paced stimulus.

(isochrony) so much for granted that it may come as a surprise to learn that from

a biological point of view such behavior is exceptional. But it is not altogether unique.

 So how does this apply to surgery?  One of the reasons that music is so powerful during surgery is that the pulse of the music entrains your heartbeat and breathing, even when you’re under general anesthesia.  Many people believe that when you’re under anesthesia you can’t actually “hear” the music.  That’s where the difference between entertainment and  entrainment comes in.

The idea began to take shape in my mind that some people in comas had been observed for years, tapping a toe or foot or finger, in rhythm with music being played or sung in the room.  Some people would awaken from lengthy comas, reporting that they ha indeed heard and appreciated music that was played or sung to them while in a coma.

After researching similar phenomena during surgery, I found that hundreds of people each year awaken from general anesthesia saying that they heard not only conversations during their surgery, but also music that was being played through speakers.  They also heard, during certain surgeries, the sound of drills, hammers and saws!!  This is when I began wondering if music that would start the entrainment process, played through super-lightweight headphones, might not be a wonderful thing.

Today, our Surgical Serenity Solution consists of just that.  After researching the very best music for entrainment, I have come up with a playlist that is soothing, comforting, and starts the entrainment process.  If you are having surgery in the near future, please consider getting yourself some!



Surgery with Music: FAQ’s


Are you having surgery?  Are you scared of the pain, the anesthesia, the time off work, the side-effects of all the medications you’ll be given?  These are all common, and VALID concerns.  Surgery is serious business, but there are times that it really must be done to improve quality of life, to prolong life, or to enhance life.

Over the past 5 or 6 decades, surgery has become a much safer endeavor as hospital OR conditions have improved and methods of sterilization and decontamination have stepped into the 21st century.  Many companies have created tools to make the patient more comfortable during the entire procedure, from warming the sheets and giving the patient fuzzy foot-cover, to lightweight headphones that deliver specially-chosen music for surgery, wirelessly and cordlessly!

Here are some of the most frequently-asked questions that I get about the benefits of music during surgery:

  1. What are the benefits of music during surgery:

Patients using music (through cordless headphones) pre-surgery, during and after surgery, report less fear and anxiety medication before procedure, less anesthesia during surgery, and less pain medication after surgery.  They also report fewer side-effects from the anesthesia, such as nausea and vomiting, and a faster return to home, work and life in general!  In addition, when patient receives the music through headphones, the surgeon can have his own more upbeat music, and the patient isn’t affected by that.  Also, conversations that the doctors and nurses have, that patient doesn’t want to hear, will be obscured.  Finally, with Baby boomers having more and more joint replacement surgeries, patients don’t have to hear the drilling, sawing and hammering that goes on.

2.  What are the drawbacks of music during surgery:  absolutely none!

3.   Do the headphones block all sounds in the OR?:  No, the surgical headphones are intended to greatly decrease the OR noises, but during regional anesthesia and surgery, the patient can still hear questions that the doctor might need to ask.

4.   Will my doctors approve of this?  Most doctors do approve of the use of headphones during surgery.  The surgeon and the anesthesiologist both need to give their approval.  It is important to print out our free article entitled “How to Talk with Your Doctor about Using Music During Surgery.”

5.   How did you choose the music on the headphones?:  I have been helping patients choose their perfect music for surgery for almost 25 years.  I had been reading about the benefits of music in reducing medication and calming the patient, but through my own personal research and experience, I discovered that slow, steady, soothing instrumental music, that has the tempo of the healthy, resting heartbeat is ideal.  This is what get the entrainment process going, and even when the patient is under general anesthesia, the body’s heartbeat, breathing and blood pressure all tend to stabilize and synchronize with the slow, steady pulse of the music.

6.    Can I continue to use them after surgery?:  Yes.  The headphones include a USB cable and charger so that after your surgery or other medical procedure, you can connect the headphones to your laptop and load hundreds more pieces or songs of your choice.  With care, your headphones should last for many years!


Benefits of Surgery with Music: Medical Research Documents


As the word spreads about your options for using music during surgery, the studies come out, documenting the benefits, and the list of benefits grows and grows.   Here are a few of the main benefits for the patient having general anesthesia:

For the patient:  Slow, steady, and soothing instrumental music can

  • Decrease anxiety and the need for as much anxiety medication
  • Decrease the amount of propofol needed as a result of patients level of relaxation
  • Decrease the amount of pain medication needed during and after surgery
  • Decrease the amount of time in the recovery area as a result of
  • Less nausea and vomiting
  • Less dizziness and confusion
  • Faster recovery and back to work because of less anesthesia

For the surgeon:  Upbeat, steady tempo, instrumental music can

  • Improve focus
  • Maintain energy level
  • Decrease distractability

For the hospital:  Benefits of using separate music for patient and surgeon

  • Safer procedures with less side-effects
  • Patients safely discharged sooner because of less anesthesia and pain meds
  • Customer satisfaction sky-rockets
  • More patients are able to be seen during the day

My sincerest hope is that one day all hospitals will use music in their operating rooms to soothe and comfort the patient in a natural and effective way, through cordless, pre-programmed headphones, while the surgeon has his favorite upbeat music that allows him to have a laser focus and plenty of energy through speakers in the OR.  There is ample research to document all of these benefits.  Click HERE to see a presentation on Music with Surgery.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions!



Surgery with Music: What are the options?


People preparing for surgery having been asking this question for about 30 years now.  Although the use of music in a medical/healing environment is ancient, only in the late 20th century were we actually able to measure the effects that music has on the patient.  For an intervention to be considered scientifically meaningful or valid, there must be research.  Now the studies have been done and we know, for sure, music before, during and after surgery is a great idea!

So what are your options?  Here is how I see them:

1.  Tell your surgeon that you’d like to be listening to some calming, soothing music during your process, whatever that might be, and trust him to make it happen.

2.  Spend some time, probably 3-5 hours, going through your CD’s or iPod playlists, and choose about an hour’s worth of your favorite calming, soothing music, to take into surgery on your iPod, if your surgeon will allow you to take your iPod in!

3.  Buy the “state-of-the-art” Surgical Serenity pre-programmed headphones that have 2e years of research behind the selection of the music and they way in which it is delivered.  These headphones have been used by hundreds of people in hospitals across the country, Canada, Hawaii, and Europe.  Many people have contacted us and sent powerful reports about how much the headphones helped them to be calm and feel fewer side-effects of the anesthesia and pain medication.  Also, these headphones can be used for years to come and re-loaded with other kinds of music for you to enjoy when you want to relax.  We’ve even had children use them during surgery and are hoping to have a child-sized model created and loaded with music just for children.

There is no question that music before, during and after surgery is a great idea.  Whether you choose your own music and load it on your iPod, or buy ready-to-go headphones, let yourself benefit from all the many advantages of music during your surgery or other medical procedure!


Can the surgeon and patient benefit from the same music?


 I would say that this is a moderately controversial subject.  Here’s why:  if the patient and surgeon are both going to benefit from music being played in the operating room, then the music will have to be delivered ambiently to the doctor and through headphones to the patient.  Why?  Because the surgeon needs to hear more lively and energizing music, while the patient needs to hear calming and soothing music that will keep them relaxed and keep their blood pressure, heartrate and breathing slow and steady.

Luckily, this is quite possible!  Less than a year ago I was invited to do a Grand Rounds presentationat the Cleveland Clinic Florida on the use of music as an adjunct to anesthesia.  Most of the studies we looked at talked about music in the OR being played through speakers on the wall or an iPod being played through speakers.  Although this usually benefits the OR staff, it does nothing for the well-being of the patient and completely disregards the concept of rhythmic entrainment.

The more recent studies look at the benefits of patients listening to their own favorite music through headphones.  Now this has been taken a step further:  wireless, cordless headphones are now available, pre-programmed with the ideal, slow, steady, soothing music that has been proven to slow down and keep steady the heartbeat and breathing.  Rhythmic entrainment is a phenomenon that has been acknowledged for over three hundred years!  It is this phenomenon that causes us to clap our hands, snap our fingers, or get up and dance spontaneously when favorite music comes on!  The reverse is also true, therefore, when a patient arrives at the hospital to have surgery, popping on some cordless headphones, pre-programmed with calm, slow, steady and soothing music, is an ideal way to begin the sedation process.  Oftentimes, less medication will be required as a direct result of this musical intervention.

If surgery is in your future, please consider your alternatives.  Feel free to contact me directly if I can help you!


Surgery with Music Series Post #25: Music with Eye Surgery


In the 20 years that I have been working with surgery patients, helping them choose their perfect music to relax them and assist them through their procedure with a minimum of drugs, I have yet to find a procedure that music can’t help.

This dear lady came to me because she was in the midst of a series of eye surgeries to treat her macular degeneration and her glaucoma. She had already had two of the three surgeries and had to do it with only a local anesthesia. She had emerged from the first two with splitting migraines and a body so stiff and tense she could hardly move for the next several days.

She was feeling somewhat desperate and when she heard about the headphones she was more than ready to try anything! Listen to her story and let her tell you what a positive experience she had:

If you have an eye surgery in your future, you might want to seriously consider giving the headphones a try. The research is there, the experience is there. Music can greatly enhance and improve your surgical experience!