Podcast episode: Healthcare noise

Soundproofist

Soundproofist is a great blog and podcast universe about noise and acoustics issues driven by Cary Norsworthy and on the website she states that

”Noise is a power struggle. Noise creates conflict. Conversely, acoustics is an art. And learning what makes acoustics sound great is a skill that each of us can learn.”

– and the podcasts episodes on sound and noise cover a lot of areas within the field. (Read more about Soundproofist here).

Podcast on healthcare noise – some research before you listen.

In this particular episode the topic is healthcare noise. Listen to the episode here.

Research

In 2016, a group of Swedish researchers revealed that staff members in a select group of hospitals knew little about the impact of sound and noise in healthcare, particularly how sound affects patients or even themselves[1].

Questionnaires were handed out to 1,047 staff members at nine ICUs and none of the respondents answered all ten questions correctly; the average number of correct answers was just four. The question with the lowest proportion of correct answers (just 3%) related to which chronic physiological changes can be linked to noise.

Questions answered correctly per profession, percent
Questions answered correctly per profession, percent

Research shows that hospitals particularly struggle with noise and that chronic physiological changes are linked a bad sound environment. But since the 1960’s, sound and noise in healthcare facilities has been increasing dramatically, both during the day and at night[2]. As the table below shows, we are straying far above the levels recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Actual sound levels in hospitals and WHO guidelines.

Today, hospitals are complex ‘cities’ with a lot of people, a lot of technical equipment and more and more advanced challenges to solve. This might also be the reason why medical staff don’t know exactly how sound affects people; their task is to save lives.

Outcome of bad acoustics

But patients suffer because of sound and noise in healthcare facilities. In short, noise makes it difficult for patients to sleep and rest, and the negative impact can be seen in medication intake[3], hospital readmissions[4] and e.g. heartrates[5]. During acute illness, a bad acoustics environment may have important detrimental physiological effects on rehabilitation[6].

‘Unnecessary noise is the most cruel absence of care which can be inflicted upon either the sick or well!’

Florence Nightingale in Notes on Nursing, 1859

 

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[1] Johansson L, et al.: ‘’Noise in the ICU patient room – staff knowledge and clinical improvements’’. Intensive and Critical Care Nursing (2016).

[2] Busch-Vishniac et al., “Noise Levels in John Hopkins Hospital”, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Dec 2005, 118(6), p3629-3645

[3] Hagerman et al: “Influence of intensive coronary care acoustics on the quality of care and physiological state of patients”, International Journal of Cardiology, Volume 98, Issue 2, February 2005

[4] Ibid

[5] Weise, “Investigation of patient perception of hospital noise and sound level measurements: before, during and after renovations of a hospital wing”, Architectural engineering – Dissertations and Student Research, 2010, Paper 4, p7

[6] Hagerman et al: “Influence of intensive coronary care acoustics on the quality of care and physiological state of patients”, International Journal of Cardiology, Volume 98, Issue 2, February 2005

Healthcare Environments 152 Research 167

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