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Hearing management

Updated 11 December 2017

Music helps to ease pain after surgery

If you're going in for surgery, listening to music before and after your operation can help to reduce anxiety and the need for painkillers.

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Listening to music before, after and even during surgery reduces anxiety and the need for painkillers, according to a comprehensive study published Wednesday.

In a review of more than 70 clinical trials involving nearly 7,000 patients, researchers found music to be a powerful analgesic under almost all circumstances.

On a scale of one to 10, post-operative pain was reduced on average by about a fifth compared to standard treatment, said lead author Catherine Meads of Brunel University in Uxbridge, England.

"If you imagine a 10-centimetre line where at zero you have no pain and at 10 it is the worst pain imaginable, the impact of music was to shift the pain you feel two centimetres towards zero," she told AFP by email.

According to the study, the benefits held true regardless of the kind of music or who selected it.

The sampling also covered all types of procedures except surgery on the brain or central nervous system.

Surprisingly, even listening to music under general anaesthetic resulted in feeling less pain, though the effects were larger when patients were conscious during an operation.

"Currently music is not used routinely during surgery to help patients in their post-operative recovery," Meads said in a statement, pointing to widespread scepticism among health professionals.

"We hope this study will now shift misperceptions and highlight the positive impact music can have."

The link between music and healing has a long history. The ancient Greek philosopher -- and musician -- Pythagoras practised "musical medicine," favouring stringed instruments.

Today, music therapy is an established field, with thousands of practitioners and its own academic literature, including the Journal of Music Therapy, published by Oxford University Press.

But the new study, published in The Lancet, is the first to demonstrate the beneficial effect of song and melody on those going under the knife.

"We have known since the time of Florence Nightingale that listening to music has a positive impact on patients during surgery," said co-author Martin Hirsch at the Queen Mary University of London.

"However, it's taken pulling together all the small studies on this subject into one robust meta-analysis to really prove it works."

Tens of millions of operations are performed around the world every year, 50 million in the United States alone.

Exactly how and why music eases anxiety and pain is still not known.

Some researchers have speculated that it distracts patients from the business at hand, while others focus on the intrinsic qualities of music itself.

Read more:

Music helps to ease pain for anxious people

Music therapy brings troubled families together

Depression and music therapy

Image: Male patient listening to music from Shutterstock

 

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Hearing Expert

Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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