Modern healthcare facilities are designed to provide a quiet and restful healing environment for patients, aiding hassle-free recuperation and recovery. Significant improvements are being made in the construction of hospital buildings with due consideration given to better noise awareness in architectural design to achieve healthier, moderated noise levels.
How noise can disrupt patient recovery, sleep and ambience
Quality sleep plays an important role in a patient’s recovery. Absence of appropriate noise control measures within the hospital environment can impact the acoustics, causing sleep disturbance in the recuperating patient. This can potentially lead to poor sleep quality, slow healing, and possible short-term memory problems in the patient while the hospital has to deal with longer recovery periods, more complications and more time required for individual patients (1). Even the hospital staff is affected by noisy conditions (2), given the stressful nature of their work.
While concrete and brick structures naturally offer a satisfactory level of noise control, hospitals built using economically-priced lightweight building materials has exacerbated modern noise issues in hospital spaces.
A comparative study conducted in 2005 on noise levels in hospitals revealed the dramatic rise over the past 50 years (3) (4): while daytime hospital sound levels around the world averaged 57 decibels in the 1960s, modern day hospitals reported an average of 72 decibels. Night time levels jumped from 42 decibels to 60 decibels. The WHO recommended sound level for patient rooms in hospitals is 35 decibels with a maximum of 40 decibels overnight. (5)
Addressing the noise problem in hospitals
However, the noise problem in hospitals and healthcare facilities can be addressed through a variety of proactive solutions employed during construction as well as in interior design. Modifications for comfort and privacy are cost-effective, customisable, and easily fitted to existing or new buildings.
These noise solutions reduce the reverberation time in spaces by increasing the quantity as well as quality of sound-absorbing materials while factoring in challenging hygiene considerations.
Additionally, patient room and external noise transfer issues through walls are addressed by ensuring integrity of walls and partition walls to minimise noise leakage. Privacy and dignity (4) are important considerations in healthcare environments with research (6) suggesting that health spaces can improve when privacy is achieved.
Hospitals operate a large number of machinery including electro-medical equipment, rooftop HVAC systems and data network utilities, which can lead to vibration and low frequency noise. This can be reduced by isolating the machinery. Pipe and ducting should also be addressed due to high frequency use of wastewater systems, particularly in nursing stations, surgery and public areas.
Integrating noise control measures into the building design and construction process can help create a better healing environment for patients and more comfortable shared spaces, with usable patient rooms and carer zones. Incorporating these acoustic considerations has positive outcomes with long-term benefits, particularly for young children, families and the elderly in their journey back to health.
Pyrotek, a global leader in soundproofing technology, provides a wide range of acoustic solutions that specifically address noise issues faced by hospitals, healthcare buildings and aged care facilities.
1. Huisman E R C M, Morales E, van Hoof J, Kort HSM, Healing Environment: A review on the impact of physical environmental factors on users. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360132312001758
2. De Lacerda Costa G, Bender Moreira de Lacerda, A, Marques J, Noise on the Hospital Setting: Impact on Nursing Professionals Health http://www.scielo.br/pdf/rcefac/v15n3/en_163-11.pdf
4. Derbyshire J, Young D, An Investigation of sound levels on intensive care units with reference to the WHO guidelines. PMC Us National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4056361/
5. Stafford A, Haverland A, Bridges E. Noise in the ICU: What we know and what we can do about it. Critical Analysis, Critical Care. University of Washington, USA – https://www.nursesfornurses.com.au/admin/uploads/Noise_in_the_ICU.28.pdf
6. Berglund B, et al. Guidelines for community noise. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 1999. http://www. who.int/docstore/peh/noise/guidelines2.html,http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/43316/E92845.pdf