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Reducing hospital noise with sound acoustic panels and diffusion: a controlled study
  1. Peter M Farrehi1,
  2. Brahmajee K Nallamothu1,
  3. Mojtaba Navvab2
  1. 1Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
  2. 2Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Peter M Farrehi, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan, 1500 E. Medical Center Drive, Rm 2722 CVC, SPC 5853, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA, pfarrehi{at}umich.edu

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Noise has been identified as a major stressor in hospitals,1 ,2 with ambient noise frequently exceeding recommended levels set by the WHO3 and reportedly as high as alarm clocks.4 ,5 Although hospitals frequently attempt to reduce noise through traditional methods such as shielding the patient (eg, closing doors), moving equipment or altering staff behaviours, these approaches disrupt workflow and ignore the realities of sound generation required in modern hospitals, which potentially limits their impact on quality and patient safety. An unexplored method of reducing hospital noise borrowed from other industries is to use sound acoustic panels that diffuse noise rather than attempt to eliminate it.6 We performed a pilot study to determine whether strategically placed, sound acoustic panels applied in hospitals would acutely reduce noise in hallways adjacent to patient rooms. If true, this option could serve as an architectural design solution to enhance patient care and experience during hospitalisation.

Methods

We conducted an observational, controlled study assessing sound levels on an active inpatient telemetry unit. Due to physical nature of sound acoustic panels, patients and staff were not blinded. Placement of panels and acoustic equipment met all institutional building management policies and national codes (figure 1). The inpatient telemetry unit is organised as two central parallel hallways with architecturally identical patient rooms on both sides. Walls and floors were hard surfaces designed for ease …

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