Staying in hospitals overnight has become difficult because of increasing noise levels, suggests research. In-patient surveys show that 40% of patients are bothered by noise from telephones, machinery, staff and trolleys. Noises affect not only patients, but also burnout rates and staff performance. Even with intensive care patients have to tolerate noise levels that go over 100db, making such vulnerable patients prone to intensive care psychosis- a type of delirium which makes patients anxious and paranoid. They even start hearing and seeing things that aren’t there. Other side effects include high BP, poor mental health, greater pain sensitivity and increased stress. Dr. Xyrichis notes that high noise levels make patients leave before they’re fully better, only likely to be rehospitalized later. Coronary care patients that received treatment during noisy periods were more likely to be rehospitalized than those treated during more silent times. Too much noise affects healthcare as staff members fail to hear the patients or each other.
Solutions to this problem have been rather slow with idiosyncratic and piecemeal approaches being undertaken. Researchers say that a more coordinated and patient-friendly approach is needed. The 3 primary areas of focus are consideration of hospital soundscape as a whole, instead of just focusing on just the noisiest elements; detailed research about the response and perception of patients to common hospital sounds; providing transparency and information to patients and their families about noise levels during admission.
Dr. Xyrichis questions if sound is considered while construction or redevelopment works on hospital infrastructure are happening. He puts emphasis on the fact that proper modifications to existing environments can be done at relatively low costs. Noise-warning systems and sound-absorbing panels provide a little relief, as can sound-masking. The lead author of the study stresses that not knowing the sources of sounds cause a lot of agitation and discomfort in patients and this needs to be looked into by researchers. Awareness is the most important thing to achieve in order to solve the problem of noises in hospitals, he adds.