Close this search box.

How hospital noise affects patients’ wellbeing

The potential health hazards of excess noise in healthcare settings

In our news post How to Create Better Acoustics in a Hospital, we noted that machines used to improve our health could be the very things that impede our recovery. That’s because the sounds from:

  • Heart rate monitors
  • Blood pressure machines
  • Drips and
  • Oxygen machines

…increase noise levels in hospitals to above the recommended noise level set by the World Health Organisation of a maximum level of 40 decibels. In fact, according to a recent study the average sound level at hospitals is 48 decibels!

WHO guidelines for hospital noise

In days past, hospitals were noise-free, much like libraries. They were respected spaces, preserved as a quiet zone – to the point where, if you visited a family member and were too loud, you would receive a hasty “shh” from the nursing staff! So seriously was noise taken that, in Florence Nightingale’s book, “Notes on Nursing,” she described unnecessary noise as “the most cruel absence of care” (Deadorff, 2011).

Fast forward to today, and unfortunately we expect noise everywhere – and that includes in hospitals. Noise levels in hospitals are nearly double the WHO’s recommendation, and can range between 57 to 72 dB during the day and 42 to 60 dB during the evening. WHO’s guidelines state that inpatient rooms the noise should not exceed 40 decibels. In today’s hospitals, this is simply not the case.

Why hospital noise at night can be such a problem

Lack of sleep because of noise on hospital wards is a problem for many patients. Sleep plays a vital role in regulating the impact of pain and the immune system, as well as people’s mental wellbeing. It’s little wonder that there is growing evidence that shorter, more inadequate quality sleep in hospitals is linked to slower patient recovery and more extended hospital stays.

Curiously, the blame for increased hospital noise can be laid on our increased awareness of the importance of health and safety. Increased knowledge has led to changing hospital surfaces to cater for easy cleaning – and this lack of absorbency on floors and walls tends to increase the sound of staff conversations and fellow patients.

The sources of noise include:

  • Staff conversation
  • Roommates
  • Alarms
  • Intercoms
  • Pagers

At night alarms, pagers and intercom noise can seem to increase as the noise from staff conversation and roommates decreases.

How to mitigate hospital noise

There are many ways to make patients in hospitals more comfortable in terms of noise. Staff can lower their voices; overhead paging systems can be removed, and cleanable acoustic solutions can be introduced.

Avenue Interior Systems can supply products that help to improve noise in a hospital environment, including:

Calando White ceiling tiles are lightweight and incredibly durable. And because they’re designed for rooms with a ceiling grid – such as hospital rooms – all you need to do is replace your existing ceiling tiles with the acoustic version.

Adding a Calando Desk or Calando Booth to the nurses’ station will improve staff privacy, and also reduce the sound of their conversations travelling into patient rooms.

Calando Acoustic Fabric can be added to communal area walls to improve the space’s appearance, its acoustics and also – since the fabric is pin and Velcro-receptive – to display posters and information.

Talk to Avenue about soundproofing solutions for hospitals

To establish the ideal combination of noise control products for your hospital, engaging an AcousTech acoustic engineer will provide you with the best results. The acoustic engineer will visit your site, discuss your noise control challenge with you, and take detailed noise level readings.

The engineer will take into account your available space, necessary access and workplace ergonomics workflows, to design the best solution for the noise control issue. The solution may include one, none, or all of the resolutions we’ve talked about above.

For more information on any noise control products, get in touch with the Avenue team on 1300 827 177.