From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Hospital Noise May Not Be Comfortable for Patients

Think hospitals are designed for quiet patient comfort? A recent study indicates that quiet is anything but the norm for some hospitals with sound levels nearing the equivalent of a chain saw.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and conducted at Mayo’s St. Mary’s Hospital during the night shift, planted noise-measuring devices in empty patient rooms to determine just how disruptive life in a hospital could be, reported CNN.

Overnight, the measuring devices reported peak noise readings of 113 decibels (somewhere between a leaf blower and a chainsaw), with an average noise level of 45 decibels. When one of the researchers slept in a room overnight, she reported being awakened by a roommate’s IV pump alarm, when the portable x-ray machine was rolled into the room mid-morning, and by the taps of a doctor’s dress shoes in the hallway.

“I realized it would be even more frustrating for the patients, who would also be dealing with pain, and having tubes going into their bodies,” Cheryl Cmiel, the nurse who started the study after receiving numerous complaints regarding noise levels, told CNN. “It really was an eye-opener.”

The findings, however, have now been incorporated into design changes intended to reduce the noises patients hear, allowing them to rest and recover. Rubber pads have been attached to metal chart holders making clipboards less noisy. X-rays are performed at 10 p.m. rather than 3 a.m. Clunky and noisy dispensers that formerly held rolls of paper towels have been replaced by silent folded towel dispensers.

Overall, the changes mean noise levels at Mayo’s St. Mary’s Hospital have been reduced to a peak of 86 decibels, similar to heavy traffic, with an average noise level of 42 decibels, about the equivalent of a quiet neighborhood.

Sources:; League for the Hard of Hearing