Hospitals Realize Their Own Noise Is a Health Issue All By Itself

Hospitals are starting to get serious about just how noisy they can be for patients trying to heal.

Two of the things you need most when you’ve been sick or had surgery are time to heal and sleep. If you’re recovering in a hospital, you certainly get the first, but sleep’s another issue altogether. Those places are noisy. The din is hard on patients, and it does no favors for staff who struggle just to hear themselves think.

Quartz recently reported on a study that found ambient noise in hospitals during the day hits 72 deciBels (dB) and 60 dB at night. To give you an idea of what these numbers represent:

  • At 72 dB, non-stop hospital noise is a bit louder than a vacuum cleaner, which is pretty annoying.
  • 60 dB is noise loud enough that the World Health Organization believes it increases the risk of heart disease in addition to being an obstacle to restorative sleep.
  • What’s also worth noting is that hospital noise is getting worse when it’s compared to readings taken in the 60s. Daytime hospital noise has doubled, and night-time noise has quadrupled.

    Some people are more sensitive to noise than others, to be sure. But nonetheless, hospitals are considering the sonic landscape in trying to make each patient’s experience as pleasant and healing as possible. Here are some of the things you may see happening in hospitals in coming years.

    Alert, Alert! Never Mind.

    Beep vs. sleep. (MARK)

    Aside from all the inevitable noises of people moving around, wheels squeaking, doors opening and closing, there’s the continuous beeping and ringing of alarms and alerts. A healthcare non-profit, the Joint Commission, found out that from 85% to 99% of the alerts and alarms in the hospitals they studied study didn’t really need to be sounded. These extraneous alerts aren’t just annoying, either. They contribute to what’s called “alarm fatigue,” where staff unconsciously begin to tune out the racket — lives can be lost if medical personnel wind up missing the alerts that matter.

    Experts believe the solution to out-of-control alarms may be to invest in wearable tech for staff that allows an alert to be targeted specifically to the people who needs to receive it. If phones discreetly get our attention with vibrations and ring tones, why not alerts on the hospital floor?

    The Sounds of Pain

    Even more than the alarm issue, patients are troubled by the heartrending cries of others in pain. These are inevitable, and there’s a limit to what can be done. But some hospitals, like the Josie Robertson Surgery Center and the Cleveland Clinic are trying to get more patients into private rooms where care can be delivered more respectfully and humanely, and patients nearby are better shielded from troubling sounds.

    Are You Asleep?

    Zzzz…WHAT?!  (EMIL)

    Many of us have had the experience of being awoken in a hospital by a nurse inquiring if we’re asleep. Maybe no more: Hospitals are increasing their emphasis on “passive care” that doesn’t require disturbing a patient’s precious sleep. Florence Nightingale wrote long ago,”“Never to allow a patient to be waked, intentionally or accidentally, is a sine qua non of all good nursing. If he is roused out of his first sleep, he is almost certain to have no more sleep.”

    In addition, hospitals are working to re-schedule specialists’ rounds so that they don’t bother patients at night.

    Helpful Noise

    Then there’s the noise you want. Over 900 hospitals worldwide have deployed the C.A.R.E. audio channel for patients. It features peaceful, relaxing ambient sounds that can mask background noise and be therapeutic at the same time. It’s not dead silence that patients generally crave — or expect — and a sound you personally find calming can make a difference.

    Hospital stays can be an ordeal all by themselves beyond the condition you’re there being treated for. As medicine becomes more holistic in its perspective, it only makes sense that hospitals are realizing what an important role sound can play in effective healthcare.

    LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

    Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

    Getty Images
    Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

    No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

    Keep reading Show less

    This prophetic 1997 Jeff Bezos interview explains the genius behind Amazon

    Jeff Bezos, the founder of, explains his plan for success.

    Technology & Innovation
    • Jeff Bezos had a clear vision for from the start.
    • He saw the innovative potential of the online marketplace.
    • Bezos explains why books, in particular, make for a perfect item to sell on the internet.
    Keep reading Show less
    Promotional photo of Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones
    Surprising Science
    • It's commonly thought that the suppression of female sexuality is perpetuated by either men or women.
    • In a new study, researchers used economics games to observe how both genders treat sexually-available women.
    • The results suggests that both sexes punish female promiscuity, though for different reasons and different levels of intensity.
    Keep reading Show less

    TESS telescope has found eight new planets, six supernovae

    It has found several bizarre planets outside of our solar system.

    NASA/Kim Shiflett
    Surprising Science
    • The Kepler program closed down in August, 2018, after nine and a half years of observing the universe.
    • Picking up where it left off, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has already found eight planets, three of which scientists are very excited about, and six supernovae.
    • In many ways, TESS is already outperforming Kepler, and researchers expect it to find more than 20,000 exoplanets over its lifespan.
    Keep reading Show less