How Hospitals Can Dampen the Decibels
Hospitals can be extremely noisy places.
In fact, quietness is one of the lowest-rated categories on national surveys of hospital quality. And: "We know the situation is getting worse, rather than getting better."
Ilene Busch-Vishniac, an acoustician and president of BeoGrin Consulting. She talked about hospital noise at a session during the Acoustical Society of America meeting this week in New Orleans.
Busch-Vishniac says she and her colleagues have tested speech intelligibility in hospital halls and nurse stations… and found poor or marginal scores across the board.
"In fact the speech communication and noise problem is so bad that most hospitals in the U.S. have eliminated the ability to phone in pharmaceutical orders—you now must deliver them in writing, because they were getting too many errors."
So how to calm the cacophony? She suggests more closed doors, to give patients peace and quiet. Instituting or continuing so-called "quiet times," when nurses interact less with patients, turn lights down, and keep voices low. And installing more acoustic absorbing tiles.
Finally: she recommends fewer audio alarms. "Now that alarms frequently are gathered centrally at nursing stations, it seems less necessary to have them also ringing at the bedside of patients. And if we could turn those off we could remove some of the most distracting sounds from the environment."
The idea wouldn't be to eliminate all bedside alarms. But to keep only the most essential ones in audio form. And in dampening the decibels, give patients what they really need: rest.