Noise affects staff and patients

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 healthcare facilities, in emergency departments and in operating rooms, where the average sound level often exceeds 70 decibels.

Reduce noise in hospital environments with sound absorbing ceilingsReduce noise in hospital environments with sound absorbing ceilings

83% of communication is speech-related

In a 6-month study of an emergency department in London, UK, more than 2,000 communication events were identified and analysed. 83% of these events were speech related and often the communication took place when at least one of the participants was multitasking.

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.

Critical consequences

Interpreting speech is inherently problematic because of different accents, dialects, and pronunciations. Background noise, interruptions and unfamiliar drug names and terminology often compound the problem. When acoustic conditions are poor, staff may misunderstand or not hear orders or medicinal dosages properly. An advisory study in Pennsylvania, USA covered reported real-life medical errors due to mishearing. Examples from the study:

“A nurse thought that the nursing student stated the patient’s blood sugar as 257 when it was 157. The patient was given 6 units regular insulin instead of 2 units regular insulin.”

“A phone order mistaken for Toradol 50 mg was administered prior to the pharmacy review, when the intended dose was 15 mg.”

Reducing noise reduces stress

In an 8-week coronary care unit study, nurses worked under a reflective ceiling for four weeks and then under a class A sound-absorbing ceiling for four weeks. The measured acoustic environment changed dramatically, but the benefits were maybe most obvious in the nurses’ personal experience. The staff’s perceptions of their own demand, distress, pressure and strain were all significantly reduced.

Saint-Gobain Ecophon sound absorbing ceilings help both patients and staff in hospitals

Less noise – less medication

Nobody wants more medication than necessary. Studies show that more patients receive medication in noisy environments. In a 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.

A sound investment

A business case in the USA used class A sound-absorbing ceilings and wall absorbers in patient rooms and care areas. The noise reduction contributed to less sleep deprivation, quicker recovery and decreased stress.

The payback time for the investment was estimated at 3 years, with a product life-span of at least 20 years.

Submitted by: Saint-Gobain Ecophon

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