Noise pollution in hospitals
Researchers from King’s College London and the University of the Arts London (UAL) are highlighting a rising problem of noise pollution in hospitals, often with levels regularly exceeding international recommendations.
Noise in hospitals is a common concern among patients, families and staff. In the UK, 40% of hospital patients are bothered by noise at night.
Noise in hospitals is known to hinder communication among staff, causing fatigue, and detrimentally impacting the quality and safety of healthcare. High noise levels and noise-induced stress impact negatively on staff performance and wellbeing, contributing to burnout.
Patients also report that hospital noise can have a cumulative effect on their hospital experience. The team highlighted that it can also impact patients’ ability to rest, heal and recover, since it has been linked to the development of intensive care unit psychosis, hospitalisation-induced stress, increased pain sensitivity, high blood pressure, and poor mental health.
Lead author Dr Andreas Xyrichis from King's College London said:
Even in intensive care units, which cater for the most vulnerable patients, noise levels over 100dB have been measured, the equivalent of loud music through headphones.
Measures to tackle this problem have included ear plugs, noise warning systems, acoustic treatment panels, educational initiatives and noise reduction protocols, which have provided some benefit.
However, so far, patients have been seen as passive recipients of hospital noise rather than active participants in its creation. It is essential that future solutions should have greater patient participation as a key feature.