When you think of an ideal lab, hospital, or well-being space, you think of focused staff, calm and confident patients, serene environments, and ultra-clean surfaces. The reality is, in a hospital for example, having a chain-saw blaring next to your head is closer to what you will find when it comes to noise levels. The constant rattle and hum of machines, screaming sirens, staff communicating, talking roommates, intercoms and pagers going off, impacts both guests and practitioners. And it’s not getting better.
By last count, hospitals more than doubled the recommended noise guidelines as outlined by the World Health Organization. In fact, a 2011 study found that lack of sound control is the biggest complaint in healthcare settings. The many studies and conclusions will make your head spin.
Patient and Guest Impacts of Excessive Sound
⁃ clinically significant sleep loss among hospitalized patients
⁃ likely increase in healing time
⁃ increased heart and respiratory rates, blood pressure and cortisol levels
⁃ apnea, hypoxemia, elevation of cranial pressure, and modulation of neuroendocrine and immune systems
⁃ the need for more pain medication
⁃ preterm infants “are at increased risk for hearing loss, abnormal brain and sensory development, and speech problems”
⁃ Negative perceptions of privacy, comfort, safety, and security
⁃ increased re-admittance
⁃ a greater requirement for sedation and anesthesia
Researcher and Medical Professional Impacts of Excessive Sound
⁃ raised risk for medical errors
⁃ a contributing factor in stress-related burnout among healthcare workers
⁃ distraction and memory loss
Medical and science professionals have recognized the impact of quiet hospitals for hundreds of years. The modern sound solution however can’t be worse than the problem. The other factor designers need to take into account: viruses and bacteria. There is a delicate trade-off taking place between quiet rooms and washable surfaces. Right now, we are losing both battles. Hospital-Acquired Infections have been on the rise since the 1980’s. Add in the recent flourishing of COVID-19 and the need for sterilizable yet noise-cancelling materials is undeniable.