Sound levels and safety in cosmetic laser surgery

Daniel J. Callaghan*, Lauren M. Bonati, Murad Alam, Kimberly Jerdan, Mark B. Taylor, Jeffrey S. Dover

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Measure the sound levels produced by various lasers commonly used during routine outpatient cosmetic surgery to determine whether or not their use exceeds exposure levels set forth by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Materials and Methods: Using two different meters, the sound levels of lasers commonly used in cosmetic surgery were recorded during various procedures for several indications: tattoo removal, treatment of lentigines and pigmented lesions, facial erythema and vascular lesions, hair removal and resurfacing of acne scars, and photoaging. Results: All but five lasers had a maximum sound level below 85 dBA, the limit proposed by NIOSH. The loudest laser examined was a fully ablative 2,940 nm Er:YAG during facial resurfacing, with an average maximum sound level of 101.5 decibels (dBA). Two other lasers used for resurfacing exceeded 85 dBA including a fractional ablative 1064 Nd:YAG with an average maximum of 97.8 and a different fully ablative 2,940 nm Er:YAG which had an average maximum of 96.3 nm. The two other lasers that exceeded 85 dBA were picosecond lasers used to treat black tattoos, including a 1,064 nm Nd:YAG with an average maximum of 93.7 dBA and a 755 nm alexandrite with an average maximum of 93.6 dBA. Conclusion: Although some lasers in cosmetic surgery may be perceived as being quite loud, they remain safe. Even the loudest laser studied would have to be used for nearly 2 hours before exceeding the OSHA recommended exposure limit. Even physicians who spend a large amount of time using lasers in clinical practice should be reassured that these devices are not likely to produce noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) hearing loss. Lasers Surg. Med. 51:491–494, 2019.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-494
Number of pages4
JournalLasers in Surgery and Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2019


  • laser
  • noise-induced hearing loss
  • safety
  • sound level

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Dermatology

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