Thursday, March 15, 2007

Let’s not be quiet about noise reduction ideas

There’s a lot of talk about noise in hospitals lately. Just last month, the Denver Post published an article about a trend developing in hospitals in that region: real attention to noise reduction.

The Rocky Mountain region is not alone in recognizing the seriousness of this seemingly simple issue. Recent research shows that noisy hospitals may increase the length of stay for patients and the chance for medical errors by staff, according to Ilene Busch-Vishniac, a sound-engineer professor at Johns Hopkins University who has studied the issue.

Her two-year study, published in 2005, showed that daytime hospital sound levels have increased from 57 decibels in 1960 to 72, equivalent to a noisy restaurant.

Here’s the difference: If you go to a bar, a bistro or a diner, you expect noise to be part of the experience. That’s not the case when you come to the hospital. Moreover, the issue is not just about amenities; excessive noise is being linked to safety and quality.

“There is an incredible amount of noise in hospitals,” said Busch-Vishniac, who said noise ranks among the top five complaints listed by patients and staff. “There appears to be a link between noise and the speed of which people heal and medical errors.”

In the coming weeks, we’ll examine the noise issue — and seek your solutions and suggestions — more closely. Remember the saying: Patients not only heal; they hear.

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