Ilene Busch-Vishniac

American research presented at ICA 2019

Healthcare acoustics on the agenda.

The impressive Aachener Dom
The impressive Aachener Dom

What a privilege to attend ICA this year. Not only were we invited for a concert in the cathedral of Aachen but in the healthcare acoustics session we had the opportunity to explore research from all over the world including 3 American papers on both noise reduction in neonatal care, cognitive effects on staff and hospital noise research in general. (Find more about the session here).

Next steps in hospital reseach

Ilene Busch-Vishniac (featured image) was coming all the way from Baltimore and her paper ‘Next steps in hospital noise research’ shed light on the last 15 years of work in the field together with a summary of the current state of knowledge of hospital noise and its impact.

Ilene Busch-Vishniac discussed WHY we need to be interested in the impact of noise in hospitals and some of the reasons mentioned were both of human and economic character; almost everyone spends time in a hospital or healthcare facility at some point in their adult life – either as patient, visitor or staff member – and noise is among the top complaints about hospitals all over the world.

Impact of bad sound environments in hospitals.
From the oral presentation: Impact of bad sound environments in hospitals.

Healthcare is the fastest growing sector

Also healthcare is one of the fastest growing labor sectors in the world together with the fact that the sector typically accounts for 10% of the labor force of a country and approximately 10% of a country’s gross domestic product.

Acoustic challenges

Ilene Busch-Vishniac also discussed the typical acoustic challenges in healthcare. Hospitals often have hard sound reflective surfaces because of a desire and tradition to use materials that can easily and frequently cleaned and disinfected. And this together with the fact that hospitals today work around the clock – where staff, patients, visitors and equipment are constantly moving creates non-stationary sources of noise.

Ilene Busch-Vishniac presented research showing how sound levels in hospitals have been increasing during the last 70 years – due to some of the reasons mentioned above.

Increasing sound levels.
From the oral presentation: Increasing sound levels (results for night time).


Ilene also discussed how the acoustic challenges in healthcare and hospitals lead to bad speech intelligibility:

Bad speech intelligibility is a general problem in hospitals.
From the oral presentation: Bad speech intelligibility is a general problem in hospitals.


Finally, some of Ilene Busch-Vishniac’s conclusions were:


  • There is a growing body of research on hospital noise but there is much still to be learned.
  • Key areas of study include speech intelligibility and sound scape analyses in hospitals.
  • Ideally, we need to craft a means of conducting research on impacts of hospital soundscapes on medical outcomes and staff stress.

Find some of Ilene’s previous work here – and read the conference abstract here.

Events 90 Healthcare Environments 147 Research 173 Uncategorized 63

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