Is Music the most underutilized intervention in a hospital?


listening to the calming, rhythmic entrainment music prior to surgeryI read everything that I can get my hands on about the healing power of music, don’t you?  All of my music therapist friends write fascinating case studies and publish their research, but you probably know I am not a music therapist.  I call myself a clinical musicologist because I have a PhD in musicology and have worked at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, and while there I earned a Master of Science in Social Work.  In 1966 I was a freshman at Florida State University  and they had a great music therapy department.  But I wanted to be a concert pianist at that time, so I went to FSU to study with famed concert pianist Edward Kilenyi and to practice the piano for 4-5 hours a day, which I loved!

It was over 25 years later that I realized that my passion for music and performing now included teaching people what I had learned about the healing power of music. A chance meeting with Dr. Arthur Harvey clinched this idea that teaching people about how music affects the mind, body and spirit was my mission and my passion going forward.

Which brings me to the point of why music is likely one of the most underutilized interventions in a hospital!

Recently, one of my physician friends posted on LinkedIn that he has believed for a long time that music is the most underutilized intervention in a medical/hospital setting! Why might that be?

I believe that although most people really love music, they also take it for granted because it is so readily available and most of the time, it’s free!  That should be a plus, right?  But it turns out that it actually makes people devalue it.  The key to making music a powerful intervention in a medical setting is to make it very intentional and not just incidental. 

I totally agree with my colleague that music is underutizlied, but how do we change that ?  First, we must understand how music affects the mind and body so that we can choose intelligently which music to use.

Of course live music is always best, but in a crowded operating room, prep room, or recovery room, this is just not practical.  And it may be that the implementation of a music intervention is not well-understood.

As a clinical musicologist I believe that in order for music to have the absolute best effect at calming the patient and stabilizing blood pressure, heart rate and breathing, each patient needs to have their own listening device, whether headphones or earbuds.  And I believe that it’s best if these devices are cordless so that they don’t tangle with any of the other devices that are being used in the patient’s room or in the operating room.

We have been providing pre-loaded headphones for patients having surgery since 2009.  Of course these calming headphones with scientifically chosen music to engage rhythmic entrainment are also extremely beneficial for any hospital patient who is scared, stressed out or experiencing pain.

And now things have gotten even easier!!  You can download one of our 5 mobile apps and stream your favorite genre of music to your own Bluetooth headphones or AirPods!  And hospitals can now license are our playlists for patients to start streaming when they arrive on the morning of surgery or procedure! To learn more about our streaming music, click HERE.  If you’re a hospital, click HERE.

To summarize, music does NOT have to be the most underutilized intervention in a hospital!  Times are changing! Let’s step into the 21st century and use all of our wonderful technological advances to help patients heal and recover without harsh and addicting medications.  the time is NOW!


New Hospital Program planned for Surgical Headphones


For the past 5 years we have been marketing our surgical  headphones primarily to individuals who are preparing for surgery.  After selling hundreds of these clinically and scientifically proven headphones with our proprietary music on them, we have decided to also have a different headphone that we will market to hospitals.  The new headphones is intended to be given or issued to each surgical patient for them to keep and take home to continue using in their recovery.

We have put thousands of hours into this process and are excited to reveal that we are getting really close to having this new surgical headphone ready to provide to hospitals!  With concerns about infection-control at an all-time high, many hospitals don’t want to re-use anything that they can make disposable.  Although we wouldn’t call this new surgical headphone disposable, we do believe that the new price will allow hospitals to give all surgical patients their own surgical headphone and in addition, patients will have at least four different playlists to choose from.

When we went to the AORN conference in Denver in 2015, this nurse from Johns Hopkins hospital was extremely enthusiastic about our surgical headphones!

Of course we will keep selling our premium surgical headphone will 4 GB of memory and a battery life of 20-24 hours.  We anticipate that dentists will buy these because they can more safely re-use them, as well as cosmetic surgery practices where price restrictions are not so intense.  To order these, just go to  We look forward to providing our proven surgical headphones to all patients preparing for surgery!


Going Under the Knife: are you afraid of anesthesia?


CystoscopySSSPeople tell me on a regular basis that they have a tremendous fear of going under anesthesia, especially general anesthesia.  Today, general anesthesia is a very safe process, if you have no complications, are in generally good health, and have no history of problems with anesthesia.

There are many exceptions to the above-mentioned situations though.  What if you have cancer and have been taking chemotherapy and have a suppressed immune system?  What if you are elderly and frail with a heart condition or other pre-existing conditions?  What if you have lots of allergies and a family history of problems with anesthesia.  Of course, there is not an easy answer here.  Each case must be judged on its own merits and you must talk very carefully with your doctors and your family.  However, in some cases, you just need to have surgery and you really need to have general anesthesia.

In this case I would strongly recommend that you consider using music before, during and after the procedure.  Music is a very well-documented and effective adjunct to anesthesia.  Slow, steady, soothing music entrains or synchronizes with your heartbeat and breathing to keep you calm and relaxed before they take you back, during the surgery, and throughout your time in the recovery room.

In addition, many surgeons today play their own favorite music in the OR and often it is upbeat, fast and even syncopated music.  This is thought not to affect the patient, and yet patients come to me after their surgery and tell me they heard conversations and loud music that they did not like!  For this reason, I recommend that the patient listen to their own favorite music through lightweight, cordless headphones that have the most appropriate music already programmed onto them.

If you have the time and know far enough in advance, you can create your own playlist and bring your own iPod or other MP3 player in.  OR, you can get some from  They are being used around the world already and research studies are in progress to prove their effectiveness in reducing the amounts of medication you will need.  Best wishes as you go through this process and let me know how it goes!

Listening to soothing music before, during and after surgery can reduce the amount of anesthesia and pain medication you require


Music Eases the Stress of Surgery—it’s a no-brainer!


 For as long as humans have pounded drums and plucked strings, listening to music has affected people’s sense of well-being, lifting their spirits and — as new research shows — calming their nerves. Literally. According to a study at Cleveland Clinic, music can slow the neuronal firings deep within the brain during surgery designed to treat Parkinson’s patients.

The seeds of this study were planted about two years ago, when a patient named Damir Janigro was being prepped for spinal surgery. Janigro, who is also a neuroscientist at the clinic, lay captive to the nerve-racking din of the operating room and in his frazzled state thought about how dentists often give their patients earphones to help ease anxiety. (See the top 10 medical breakthroughs of 2008.)

If people getting root canals merited a musical intervention, he thought, why not people undergoing brain surgery? Patients with conditions such as epilepsy, brain tumors, severe depression, and obsessive-compulsive and motor disorders like Parkinson’s have to be awake for surgical procedures that often take several hours. Janigro and his team decided to use that wakeful period to determine whether music made the subjects’ experience in the operating room less stressful.

He will present his findings on Oct. 30 as part of a symposium in New York City on music and the brain. The son of a world-renowned cellist, Janigro specializes in studying epilepsy and is associated with Cleveland Clinic’s Arts and Medicine Institute, which is working to advance our understanding of how music can do such things as help decrease pain and blood pressure and improve movement in Parkinson’s patients.

The medical community has long been interested in how the brain is affected by music. Historically, however, most research was linked to the cortex, the brain’s outer layer, which is associated with functions like memory, consciousness and abstract thought.

In those studies, neurosurgical patients, wide awake with their cortex exposed, listened to certain sounds and music. While their neural activity was being recorded, they told researchers how those selections made them feel.

Janigro wanted to perform similar studies on motor centers deep within the brain. Because music is often associated with movement — like tapping one’s feet — he theorized that music could be used to modify the activity of thalamic and subthalamic neurons, which are located in the same area where a neuronal pacemaker is implanted during deep-brain stimulation.

In Janigro’s study, more than a dozen neurosurgical patients, predominantly with Parkinson’s, listened to three musical selections — rhythmic music with no discernible melody (by Gyorgi Ligeti, of Stanley Kubrick–movie fame), melodic music with undefined rhythm (by Aaron Jay Kernis, a Pulitzer Prize winner) and something in between (Ludwig van Beethoven). In the later stages of the research, to prevent familiarity from swaying the subjects’ responses, music was specifically composed for the study by students from the Cleveland Institute of Music.

In the end, patients almost unanimously said the purely melodic offerings were the most soothing. But the recordings of their brain activity were eye-opening. (Read “The Year in Medicine 2008: From A to Z.”)

Listening to melodic music decreased the activity of individual neurons in the deep brain, says Janigro, adding that the physical responses to the calming music ranged from patients’ closing their eyes to falling asleep. Some patients even settled into a nice round of snoring. And when lead neurosurgeon Ali Rezai needed patients to perform an action, such as lifting a limb, during the procedures, he simply removed their earphones and relayed instructions. Once the music resumed, patients returned to their snoozing.

These are very desirable results, says Janigro. With the right music, he says, patients can be more relaxed in the operating room. And that relaxation may mean not only that procedures involve less medication — to control blood pressure, which increases with stress — but perhaps that patients have quicker recovery times and shorter hospital stays.

Janigro anticipates that following institutional approval, music will be used during certain neurosurgical procedures at the clinic as early as 2010. He hopes other hospitals will soon follow Cleveland’s lead. “This type of surgery can be a traumatizing experience, and using music can decrease anxiety,” he notes.

And you can’t beat the cost.

With health-care expenditures through the roof, this patient benefit is practically free, says Janigro, who used his own iPod and that of a colleague’s to pump in the music for the study. “The clinic doesn’t have a budget for iPods yet, but soon I think we will. It’s a no-brainer,” he says. “There’s nothing more calming than sleep.”

from “Time” Magazine, 10/23/2009


Which hospitals in the U.S. are using the Surgical Serenity Headphones?


 This is a question that I get more and more these days.  As people around the country and around the world, find out about our ready-to-go, pre-programmed surgical headphones, they want to know that the research is there and that nationally-known, reputable hospitals are already using them.


Well, good news!  They are already being used at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and the Cleveland Clinic in both Ohio and Florida.  Individuals have purchased them and used them here in Louisville, KY at Baptist Hospital East, Jewish Hospital and Norton Hospital downtown as well as Norton Suburban Hospital.  They’ve been used at hospitals in New York City, Greenville, S.C., Spartanburg, S.C., Birmingham, AL, Houston, TX, San Francisco, CA and in Canada, Hawaii and London.

Several patients were afraid that they would not be able to wear them into surgery, but only two people nationwide were told that they could not take them into surgery.  These patients both concluded simply that it had not been done before and that the surgeon or anesthesiologist did not want to try it.  No medical or safety precaution could be cited.

To date, all patients who actually used the music before, during, and after their surgery have reported that they will never have surgery again without using their headphones and music.  Patients have said that they drift off to sleep feeling as though they’re at the beach, listening to favorite music through headphones and totally forget that they’re in a hospital about to have surgery.  Needless to say, when patients are not tensed up and rigid with fear and anticipation, the procedure goes better:  less anxiety meds, less anesthesia, less pain medicaltion = faster and safer procedure and recovery!  Who could argue with that?


Music and Surgery: Music Medicine or Music Therapy?


Many people do not understand the difference between music medicine and music therapy.  To me, it’s not a big deal, but to some people it is a huge deal.  My mentor, Dr. Arthur Harvey, explained it to me like this:  in order to conduct a music therapy session, a music therapist must be present.  It is the therapeutic relationship between the music therapist “doing” music with the patient that creates the result.  Music therapy is what worked miracles with Gaby Giffords.  Music therapy is a wonderful, fantastic modality with many situations, especially situations needing rehabilitation.

This is not true with music medicine.  The use of music during surgery is an example of music medicine.  In this situation, the music, as chosen by a clinical musicologist for its unique properties and suitability for pre-surgery, surgery, and recovery works all by itself.  When played for the patient through wireless, lightweight headphones, well-documented benefits result!  The surgery suite needs a surgeon, an anesthesiologist and several nurses and surgery techs.  They do not need one extra person!

This may not sound earth-shaking to you, but in a litigious society, and a hospital community that is terrified of lawsuits and staph infections, the surgery headphones provide a lot of comfort and benefits for both patient and doctor.   The anesthesiologist gets the patient to sleep more easily because the patient is already relaxed by music.  The patients wake up faster and with fewer complications, because they required less anesthesia.  In recovery, they require less pain medication because the soothing music and the entrainment phenomenon have kept the patient relaxed and therefore they experience less pain.

We have two clinical trials in progress right now and are working with hospitals around the country to get our headphones into their operating rooms for all patients.  If you or a friend or a family member is having surgery, please be sure that they have the information about music and surgery!


Surgery with Music Series Post #24: Surgery Headphones in the Hospital with Pacemaker Implantation


Surgery is by no means the only valuable use for Surgery Serenity Headphones.  As a matter of fact, most any procedure that is done in a hospital or doctor’s office could help ease a patient’s anxiety, soothe their fears and decrease the amoung of anesthesia that might be needed.

One of the first patients that used the headphones in the hospital was a man who had a pacemaker implanted.  Listen to his story and keep music in mind if you or anyone you know needs to have a pacemaker put in.  Although the music is already pre-programmed into the headphones, you can easily put your on favorite music on these headphones if you wish!


Surgery with Music Series Post #20: How difficult is it to find the pre-programmed headphones for surgery?


 If you have just found out that you need surgery for any given condition, you’ll want to get the headphones as soon as possible.  Having the ability to listen to this music for an hour or so a day leading up to the surgery will allow you to condition your body to relax when the music starts. 

It’s also good to be able to let your doctor know that you want to use music during the surgery in case he has questions about doing this.  Although most doctors are fine with the idea once they understand the considerable research behind them, some doctors will balk.  A few people have reported that their doctor allowed them to wear the headphones until the surgery and immediately afterwards, but not during. 

If you are going to a large, cutting-edge facility, it’s possible that they will already have the headphones ready to go for you, but in smaller communities and hospitals, you’ll probably have to bring your own!  As I said above, though, just be sure to let the doctor you’ll be bringing in your own music and player.

The only surgery that the headphones might not work for would be brain surgery and even then they could possibly be worn.  Anything new always has many skeptics at first, but these surgical serenity headphones are rapidly gaining credibility in the medical world.  I think the fact that the Cleveland Clinic has brought be in to do a Grand Rounds presentation is proof enough that they are a great idea!

Even if your surgery is less than a week away, I can probably get them to you if you’re willing to pay overnight postage.  Just go to and you can order either the headphones or a download of my proprietary music, chosen especially for it’s characteristics.  You can put the music on your own iPod or MP3 player if you prefer, but the cordless headphones are the easiest and most convenient!  Best wishes on your procedure!


Surgery with Music Series Post #19: How long will music continue to be helpful in recovery process?


 A reader has asked the question about how long after returning home from surgery will the headphones and music continue to help.  Great question!  The wonderful thing about music is that it always relaxes you and healing happens best and fastest when the body is relaxed.  Stress and anxiety cause every muscle in your body to tense up and it’s hard to heal when your body is full of tension.

That’s why putting the headphones on at least 30-45 before you are taken in to surgery is so important.  Here too, the more relaxed your body is, the less anesthesia and pain medication will be required to put you to sleep and keep you asleep comfortably.

After you return home you will find that it’s easy to add new music to the headphones or change all of the music completely.  You’ll be able to wear the headphones outdoors or indoors.  You could even travel with them and wear them on planes, trains and cruise ships, just like you would an iPod, but cordlessly.  These headphones are an investment that you’ll enjoy for years to come.

Thanks for all the questions people are sending me.  Keep them coming!


Surgery with Music Series Post #12: Music with Regional Anesthesia


Regional anesthesia is used in many, many surgical procedures and medical procedures.  The following description is taken from

and gives an excellent overview of various examples of regional anesthesia.

What is Regional Anesthesia?
Regional anesthesia is used when only one area of the body, like an arm or a leg, needs to be anesthetized in order to perform an operation. There are several types of regional anesthesia.

What are the different types of regional anesthesia?
• Spinal Anesthesia – Spinal anesthesia involves injecting a local anesthetic into the fluid
surrounding spinal nerves. Once injected, the medicine mixes with spinal fluid in the
lower back and numbs the nerves it contacts, effectively blocking sensation and pain.

Spinal anesthesia takes effect rapidly and is safe and effective for any surgery occurring
below the ribcage. It is especially effective for surgery on the lower abdomen and legs.

• Epidural Anesthesia – Epidural anesthesia involves the placement of a catheter into
a small space within the vertebral column just before the spinal fluid. Depending on the
nerves targeted, the epidural can be placed in various regions of the back from the neck
to the tailbone. Epidural medications can be given through this catheter to provide
numbness for the surgery, and also can be used to provide pain relief
in the post-operative period.

• Nerve Blocks – Your anesthesiologist can use a variety of nerve blocks to ensure
comfort throughout a surgical procedure. Often a group of nerves, called a plexus
or ganglion, that causes pain to a specific organ or body region can be blocked
with local anesthetics. Below are some of the most common nerve blocks and what
body parts they are associated with.
o Trigeminal nerve blocks (face)
o Ophthalmic nerve block (eyelids and scalp)
o Supraorbital nerve block (forehead)
o Maxillary nerve block (upper jaw)
o Sphenopalatine nerve block (nose and palate)
o Cervical epidural, thoracic epidural, and lumbar epidural block (neck and back)
o Cervical plexus block and cervical para-vertebral block (shoulder and upper neck)
o Brachial plexus block, elbow block, and wrist block (shoulder/arm/hand,
elbow, and wrist)
o Subarachnoid block and celiac plexus block (abdomen and pelvis)
• Intravenous Regional Anesthesia – Intravenous regional anesthesia is the process
of placing an IV catheter into a vein in your lower leg or arm so that the local anesthetic
can be administered. An important part of intravenous regional anesthesia is placing
a tourniquet above the area to ensure the medicine stays in the arm or leg that is being
anesthetized. Feeling will return to the area once the tourniquet is removed.

What are the most common procedures used with regional anesthesia?
Regional anesthesia can be used for many procedures, but the most common are orthopedic and obstetric procedures.

Are there side effects associated with regional anesthesia?
Patient safety is extremely important. Although anesthesia can carry some risks, major side effects or complications are uncommon. You can be assured that our physicians are extremely qualified to handle your anesthesia care. Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants regularly exceeds the national standards of care and safety. The specific risks of anesthesia vary with the particular procedure and the condition of the patient. You should ask your anesthesiologist about any risks that may be associated with your anesthesia.

What are some of the side effects of regional anesthesia?
Although uncommon, potential risks include:
• Swelling
• Infection at the injection site
• Systemic toxicity (rare)
• Heart or lung problems (rare)

How can music make a difference?   As with so many medical/surgical situations, one of the main things music through headphones will do is simply distract you.  But with headphones, they will also create a sonic cocoon around you that keeps other hospital and clinic sounds away from your ears.  The fact that our headphones are programmed with music chosen specifically for surgery makes them ideal to calm you and regulate your heart-rate and breathing with musical entrainment!  Post any questions you might have here as a comment!

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