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Hospitals are not only a place to heal your body, but also your mind and spirit. CR2 Engineering can help implement systems that allow healthcare facilities take care of patients in a restful environment.

A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) set recommendations on the background noise in a patient’s hospital room. It should be no greater than 35 decibels during the day and 30 decibels at night, with no disruptive noises higher than 40 decibels. A study examined reported noise levels in hospitals over the course of 45 years. It showed that the average daytime sound level in acute care hospitals grew from 57 decibels in 1960 to 72 decibels in 2005. Also, peak noises in hospitals could exceed 85-90 decibels. No study reported noise levels that met the WHO guidelines.

Standardized Exit Survey

The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey is a standardized exit survey for measuring a patient’s experience that directly affects Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement dollars. The HCAHPS exit survey question “During this hospital stay, how often was the area around your room quiet at night?” received the worst “top-box” score at 60% among all other questions on the survey.  In addition, the noise level, especially sudden disruptive noises at night, affects the medical care of the patients and has been shown to delay wound healing, increase the risk of hypertension, and ischemic heart disease; even surgical patients in a noisy environment need more pain medication than those in a quiet setting.


Another issue concerning sound is the need for privacy. The development of Heath Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) legislation on patient confidentiality has extended past written word. Patient information exchanged orally needs to be private and secure. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) has taken steps to ensure that all spaces where doctors and patients exchange sensitive information meet standards for privacy.  Without a doubt, sound mitigation and privacy in hospitals has become an important issue to consider when Owners design their facilities. New technologies will allow your patients to feel secure. It also helps them to recover in a quiet, restful environment.  For example, sound masking technologies in patient rooms use white or pink noise to provide a baseline level of sound. This dampens the sound level of loud disruptive noises for the patient. It can be seen that sound masking has the most significant effect on ICU patients’ sleep, producing an improvement of 42.7%. It also makes the room private and secure so the patient and doctor exchange is private.


Other technologies available in this field include displays in the hallway, paired with instruments that measure the sound level in area, that display a “Quiet Please” notification when the threshold of sound exceeds an accepted level.   Advances in paging technologies also help with noise reduction.  Legacy systems use a clumsy interface that is often too loud or soft, or page an entire floor when only a small section needs contact. Networked media systems avoid the centralized system of legacy paging and can adjust to aid in noise reduction by only paging into the required area of the hospital or floor.  Also, they can include noise-monitoring systems that adjust the paging level to fit the environment which helps avoid unnecessarily loud pages in quiet areas and quiet pages in louder spaces.

Implemented in an effective manner, these audio systems improve the care and comfort of patients and aid in maintaining a quiet hospital. CR2’s expertise in healthcare systems and acoustical design can not only address this growing need, but also provide consultation with regard to sound, acoustics and privacy in a healthcare environment.

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