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The Latest in Hospital Noise Reduction Research and Articles

Titles, summaries, bibliographies, and links to the latest research and articles regarding the impact of noise and sleep on patient outcomes.


Noise and Sleep Among Adult Medical Inpatients: Far From a Quiet Night

Despite the importance of sleep for recovery, hospital noise may put patients at risk for sleep loss and its associated negative effects. Objectively measured hospital noise can range as high as 67 dB in the intensive care unit to 42 dB in surgical wards, far from the World Health Organization (WHO) international recommendations of 30 dB for patient rooms.1 Although almost half of Medicare patients report that their hospital rooms were not quiet at night, data to objectively characterize noise levels and sleep in hospitalized adults in medical wards are limited.2 One study that objectively measured sleep and noise among hospitalized adults older than 70 years found no association.3 This study aimed to objectively measure noise and sleep duration in adult medical ward patients.

Jordan C. Yoder, BSE; Paul G. Staisiunas, BA; David O. Meltzer, MD, PhD; Kristen L. Knutson, PhD; Vineet M. Arora, MD, MAPP

Arch Intern Med. 2012; 172(1):68-70. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.603

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The Effects of Hospital Noise

Noise is an environmental stressor that is known to have physiological and psychological effects. The body responds to noise in the same way it responds to stress and overtime can impair health. Research clearly shows that hospital noise levels exceed noise level recommendations and has the potential to increase complications in patients. What is less known is the effect hospital noise has on nurses. The purpose of this article is to discuss hospital noise and its effects on patients and nurses. Because nurses spend more time in hospitals over the course of their career, they experience most of the burden from excessive occupational noise levels. Nurses must advocate not only for a healthy work environment but also for a healing environment, for themselves as well as for their patients.

Facilities and Patient Care Services Department, University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.

Nurs Adm Q. 2010 Oct-Dec;34(4):327-33. doi: 10.1097/NAQ.0b013e3181f563db.

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High hospital noise levels hinder patient recovery

Researchers from the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine evaluated the sleep quality of 106 patients between April 2010 and May 2011. They used sound level monitors to record beside noise levels and wrist activity monitors for objective sleep data.

The findings showed that the the peak noise level rivaled that of a chainsaw and reached more than 80 decibels. In addition, the researchers found that hospital noise levels reached 67 decibels in the ICU and 42 decibels in surgical wards. The most common sources of noise reported by patients were staff conversation, roommates, alarms, intercoms, and pagers.

“High Hospital Noise Levels Lead to Slower Patient Recovery.” – The Advisory Board Daily Briefing.

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Reduce and Optimize Hospital Noise with Six Sigma Tools

A hospital must create a quiet, calm environment for patients by providing a physical setting conducive to recovery and an organizational culture that supports patients and families through the stresses imposed by illness, hospitalization, medical visits, healing and bereavement.

To accomplish this hospital employees must identify internal and external noise factors – is it voices, equipment or the building? The staff must also discern which noise sources are known controllable factors, known uncontrollable factors and unknown uncontrollable factors. The hospital must measure and reduce the noise in patient rooms within defined compliance levels.

S. Arun Vijay

“Reduce and Optimize Hospital Noise with Six Sigma Tools.” ISixSigma. 

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Staff Solutions for Noise Reduction in the Workplace 

A comprehensive noise-reduction project was initiated in response to low patient-satisfaction scores on an inpatient neuroscience unit at St Luke’s Hospital and Health Network. The effects of noise on the health of patients and staff provided additional rationale for the project.

Before project initiation, dB readings were found to be well above the hospital environment recommendations. Initial pre-education readings were as high as 78.1 dB; standard recommended levels are 40 dB. In April 2008, before project initiation, patient-satisfaction scores ranked in the second percentile in the Press Ganey large hospital grouping. Postproject scores rose to the 95th percentile by July 2008.

Alison Connor, RN, BSN, NE-BC and Elizabeth Ortiz, RN

Perm J. 2009 Fall; 13(4): 23–27.

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Noise Control: A Nursing Team’s Approach to Sleep Promotion

Respecting the silence creates a healthier environment for your patients.

A compelling perspective from both the patient and nurses’ point of view. What works, what doesn’t and why it is important.

“Noise Control: A Nursing Team’s Approach to Sleep Promotion : AJN The American Journal of Nursing.” LWW.

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