Silent Healing: The Importance of Proper Acoustic Design in Healthcare Facilities

Silent Healing: The Importance of Proper Acoustic Design in Healthcare Facilities

Few individuals besides those in the acoustics and healthcare industries know that the maximum recommended background noise in hospital patient rooms should be 35 decibels during the day and 30 decibels at night as set forth by the World Health Organisation. 

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However, achieving quality acoustics in healthcare facilities is one of the most technically challenging tasks. Factors such as an open-planned layout, the use of hard internal surfaces, high footfall, vulnerable patients, noisy equipment and high noise reverberation, make it an incredibly complicated task to create the perfect acoustic conditions without accounting for the need to ensure low contamination levels and the need to use specific construction materials in infection control rooms. 

Other critical aspects to take into consideration while creating an acoustic design for healthcare establishments involve ensuring speech intelligibility between staff while also maintaining patient privacy.

Besides the adverse effects of noise on patients, improper acoustics can affect communication among work personnel, often leading to medical errors. Poor acoustics also directly impacts patient satisfaction as they may hesitate to share their medical conditions, possibly leading to greater health risks while negatively affecting patients’ comfort, safety, security and overall recovery. 

Impacts of high noise levels on patients:

  1. Irritability.
  2. Sleep disruption.
  3. Decrease in oxygen saturation, elevated blood pressure, and increased heart and respiration rates among neonatal intensive care patients.
  4. Decrease in the rate of wound healing.
  5. Higher incidences of re-hospitalisation.

Impacts of high noise levels on staff:

  1. Increase in perceived work pressure, stress, and annoyance.
  2. Increased levels of fatigue.
  3. Difficulty in communication and increased propensity for work errors.
  4. Emotional exhaustion and burnout.

Due to the aforementioned challenges healthcare facilities present, there exist limited acoustic options to employ. However, in order to combat the above, the following measures can be implemented  to create optimum ambient conditions and the most suitable acoustic environment for patients, visitors and staff :

  1. Designing mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems such that they meet the latest healthcare guidelines. This may include specifying HVAC systems with quiet air handling units and fans, isolating the equipment, limiting air velocities in ducts and other considerations.
  2. Utilising attenuators with encapsulated absorption and special melinex lining as opposed to the traditional absorptive internal lining. Sound attenuators to reduce duct-borne mechanical services noise can also be used.
  3. Using acoustic walls, floor and ceiling to achieve speech privacy between undesirable adjacencies. For example, a room between an infant or adult sleep room.
  4. Treating high intrusive noise of chillers and generators through sound attenuators, louvres and acoustic panels.
  5. Providing crosstalk attenuators between rooms to maintain privacy.
  6. Hiring an acoustic consultant during the initial design stages will enable a more efficient and effective creation of an ambient acoustic environment.

To learn more about the world of acoustics and our range of distinguished acoustic solutions, stay tuned to our blog.

Author: Arsalan Arhter

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