Noise affects hospital care

Sleep well and heal faster

Sleep is fundamental to human health in general, and critical to patient recovery. The World Health Organization (WHO) stipulates that for a good night’s sleep, continuous background noise should not exceed 30 decibels, and individual noise events exceeding 45 decibels should be avoided.

When studying historic noise data from research in hospitals across the world, it was found that not one hospital complied with WHO guidelines. The average sound pressure levels were 60 decibels during the night and 70 decibels during the day.

A sleep disruption study showed that changing the ceiling from plaster to a class A sound-absorbing ceiling reduced sleep arousals by 40%.

Saint-Gobain Ecophon sound-absorbing ceilings ideal for hospitals

Noise reduces performance

There is a significant difference when performing a complex task in a quiet or noisy environment. In a noisy environment, the performance is approximately 50% less accurate. Consider how this may affect work in emergency departments and operating rooms, where the average sound level often exceeds 70 decibels.

Shouting just to be heard

In general, clear speech communication needs to be at least 15 decibels louder than the background noise. Since the average sound levels in emergency departments and operating rooms often exceed 70 decibels, this means communication must be conducted at around 85 decibels. Or, in other words, people need to consistently speak as loud as the sound from a circular wood saw.

Less noiseless medication

Studies show that more patients receive medication in noisy environments. In a specific study of intensive coronary care, the number of chest-pain patients in need of extra intravenous beta-blockers was reduced by 67%, simply by changing the sound-reflecting ceiling to a class A sound-absorbing ceiling.

The helpless suffer the most

In neonatal sound environments, the American Academy of Paediatrics recommends sound levels lower than 45 decibels. But numerous studies from NICUs report average sound levels in the range of 55–89 decibels. The high sound levels increase the infants’ heart rates, respiration rates and blood pressures, as well as lowering their oxygenation levels. It is also known that hearing impairment is around seven times higher among children that have been discharged from NICUs.

Reducing noise reduces stress

A study of stress hormones showed that the levels of epinephrine increased by 43% after just three hours of exposure to low-intensity noise, in comparison to quiet conditions.

In conclusion

A good sound environment:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves quality of sleep
  • Reduces intake of pain medication
  • Improves communication
  • Lowers stress levels
  • Improves patient safety
  • Enhances staff wellbeing, performance and job satisfaction

Submitted by: Saint-Gobain Ecophon – Tel: +27(0) 71 356 2306

To learn more and to download the full research summary, please visit http://www.ecophon.com/za/acoustic-solutions/healthcare/related-information/hc-research-summary/

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