Hospital noise at night exceeds WHO recommended levels

Hospital Noise - Use noise-activated warning signs to create quiet zonesLack of sleep due to hospital noise on wards is a problem for many patients around the world as sleep plays an important role in regulating the impact of pain and the immune system as well as people’s mental and emotional well-being. It, therefore, follows that there is growing evidence that shorter and poorer quality sleep in hospitals is linked with slower patient recovery and longer hospital stays.

One such study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood 17 July 2018[1] has reported that children and mothers have poorer quality sleep in paediatric hospital wards than they do at home. And that this may be due to significantly raised sound levels in hospitals.

The study which took place at Southampton Children’s Hospital (UK) compared hospital noise on a ward with that of children’s bedrooms at home. Sleep quality was measured for 40 children and 16 months on the wards using an Actigraph for a max of 5 nights in both sleep environments, and sound levels were measured at their bedsides. The findings showed that both children and parents had poorer quality sleep in a hospital than at home, and that median sound levels in hospital exceeded the WHO recommended limits of 30dB(A) overnight by 18.6dB(A): an increase of just 3dB represents a doubling of noise to the human ear, so this is a significantly higher level of noise.

The study’s conclusions were that both children and their mothers have poor quality sleep in paediatric wards, and this may affect the child’s recovery and pain tolerance, and add to parental stress levels.

By reducing noise in children’s wards and across hospitals generally at night there might be an improvement in their sleep and this may lead to improvements in the quality of stay and recovery of patients.

Pulsar Instruments recommends several ways to control and reduce noise in hospital wards these include:

Hospital noise - SafeEar noise-activated warning uses help control noise levelsMount our noise-activated warning sign the Pulsar SafeEar in wards, corridors, public places or around the nurses’ station to give a clear warning to warn staff and visitors when a pre-set noise level has been reached or exceeded and noise levels need to be reduced.

  • Measure the noise from medical equipment or noisy activities using a simple hand-held noise level meter such as the Pulsar Model 14 or Pulsar Nova.
  • Identify noisy equipment which can be adjusted to reduce noise levels at night
  • Set a ‘quiet time’ overnight and advertise this with posters in corridors and wards and with the use of the Pulsar SafeEar noise-activated warning sign.
  • Identify faulty machinery or equipment that requires maintenance so that maintenance teams can fix anything that’s causing unnecessary noise; use “I am noisy stickers” to identify them.
  • Fit soft door or slow door closures and add foam pads to bin lids to reduce banging on closure.
  • Make herbal and decaffeinated drinks available with night time drinks.

You can find more ways to control and reduce hospital noise on our Hospital Noise solutions page. Please contact us for further information or advice.

[1] Bevan R, Grantham-Hill S, Bowen R, et al Sleep quality and noise: comparisons between hospital and home settings Archives of Disease in Childhood Published Online First: 17 July 2018. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2018-315168

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