The Sound of Urgency: Understanding Noise in the Emergency Department

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Music & Medicine, 2013, 5 (1), pp. 44 - 51
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Hospital noise is a worldwide issue, with detrimental effects on health and healing. The busy emergency department (ED) typically generates excess noise. Few studies have investigated noise levels within the Australian ED. This study examines noise in this setting, in turn suggesting how noise levels may be reduced. Noise level measurements occurred in 4 locations within the ED during peak staff and patient flow times over selected 7-hour periods. These were compared to the available standards and guidelines and supplemented by regular staff surveys documenting perceived noise. Findings indicated that all 4 locations exceeded the maximum recommended levels by up to 20 dB. Staff perception surveys suggested that most noise was created by people (conversations). Reducing noise in the ED may be achieved by (1) decreasing the generation of noise and (2) reviewing building layout and introducing physical noise controls such as noise-absorbing ceiling tiles and acoustic barriers/curtains. © 2013, SAGE Publications. All rights reserved.
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