Help! Hard of Hearing in the OR?!

by callisto1013 (New) New

I would like the advice of CRNA's regarding work in the OR for a Hard of Hearing individual and CRNA hopeful. I currently work in a Level I Trauma/Surgical ICU, have a 4.0 GPA, and overall, I am an extremely effective nurse. On paper- I think I have the qualities that CRNA schools are looking for. But I have many reservations about going to CRNA school and working in the OR with surgeons who may not be receptive to my slight disadvantage. Most importantly, I never want my hearing to affect or possibly cause harm to a patient. My difficulty with hearing occurs when I cannot see the person's lips (i.e. wearing a mask), they are just not close enough to me, or their is alot of background noise. I do wear behind the ear aids and in my current experience, they allow me to hear what is necessary to perform my job in the ICU. When I shadowed my friend who is a NA, she didn't interact too much with the surgeon so I am wondering if this is typical? How much interaction do you have in the OR? Are their any jobs in anesthesia (like endoscopy) where it could be easier for someone like me? Ultimately I would just love to hear some honest feedback because this is something I have been considering for a very long time. Thank you in advance.

Rose_Queen, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in OR, education. Has 17 years experience. 5 Articles; 10,685 Posts

OR nurse here, not a CRNA. I will say that I do have a little bit of hearing loss in one ear. Does make some things harder, especially with surgeons who tend to mumble. There is an insane amount of background noise in the OR if you ask me- radio, suction, beeping from equipment, other noises from equipment, talking (not all of it necessary), etc. I can still do my job, although I've had to ask the scrub to repeat what they were asking for- usually I hear the size and type of suture, but not the needle type.There is actually a fair amount of interaction between surgeon and anesthesia in my specialty (cardiac). Things like stop ventilating when we saw through the sternum so the lungs aren't full, table up/down/roll, give this med, give that med, etc.There are some areas that may be quieter than others- we have anesthesia providers who go to MRI/CT for young children, endo does seem to be a little bit quieter than the OR. However, some facilities may have an anesthesia pool and everyone goes everywhere- that's how it is where I work. Everyone takes turns in the OR, in imaging, in endo, in other locations that anesthesia goes to.

ChristineAdrianaRN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Pediatric and Adult OR. Has 7 years experience. 1 Article; 168 Posts

I agree with Rose_Queen (also an OR nurse here). I think a specialty that depends greatly on anesthesia and surgery interaction would be a poor choice. But cardiothoracic is the only one I can think of that is that way. Other than that, it seems the only time the surgeon will really talk to you is when they say, "How's [the patient] doing up there?" or "Bed up, please!" :) If they know you're hard of hearing I imagine they would work with you (just make sure you let them know you're there if you do a break/shift change and they don't realize someone HOH is at the head of the bed). But it might be stressful for you, because ORs have a toooon of background noise. I am young and not HOH and I have a hard time a lot. A surgery center or somewhere with less noise might be okay? I encourage you to shadow a CRNA for a day and see what you think!

FurBabyMom, MSN, RN

Has 8 years experience. 1 Article; 814 Posts

I'm an OR nurse too. I work primarily neurosurgery. We're a teaching hospital and do all kinds of things other places might that may be part of it. But we're all constantly interacting. Some of our situations require a cohesive effort from everyone involved to make it through. It's not always just asking the bed to be moved or something like that. Basically, it could be workable, but it depends, really, on the interpersonal skills folks working together have. If that makes any sense at all?

subee, MSN, CRNA

Specializes in CRNA, Finally retired. Has 50 years experience. 3,548 Posts

Most CRNA's work in large groups and we generally have no choice (and no knowledge) where we are working day to day. I concur with the above posts that OSHA would never OK the noise we put up with every day:). However, you are working without problem in an ICU and I think you'd be fine in the OR. We have to be ready to rotate to different sites from day to day and sometimes, two sites in one day when your room finishes early. You are a corporate widget and deserve more than you earn. Interesting job, however. It's the opposite of boredom!


50 Posts

Try this as a test. Turn the pulse ox sound on. Can you adjust the volume to where you can hear changes in saturation level and the heart rate? Can you hear the BP cuff start to cycle? Unless you were to sign up for a GI only job, most places do not allow you to pick your cases. We rotate through. And yes there is a lot of background noise - conversation, background music, instruments, suction. As long as you can hear your monitors it shouldn't be a problem though.


42 Posts

I don't have firsthand experience with this as I'm just an SRNA who has not started clinical yet, but when I saw this thread I thought it might be of help... My program director told us a story of a student who was hard of hearing (wore hearing aids in everyday life) in the program; it sounded like that student was able to get some sort of additional earpiece to help them in the OR; I'm not sure if it helped more with monitors than with hearing voices, but it sounded like it helped that student... I'm sorry, I don't know what kind of earpiece it was, but I thought maybe that tidbit of info would be helpful if you wanted to look into it. Best of luck to you.