Hospital Noise: Risk to Health and Safety Human hearing is both sensitive and highly adaptive leading to culturally influenced and highly personal responses to sound. Unwanted sound is generally referred to as noise. Sound at intensities of approximately 85 decibels dBA time weighted average (TWA) is known to cause hearing loss and thus potential occupational exposure is ... Article
Article  |   November 01, 2008
Hospital Noise: Risk to Health and Safety
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Diana S. Pope
    Nursing Research Department, Portland VA Medical Center, Portland, OR
Article Information
Hearing & Speech Perception / Acoustics / Healthcare Settings / Articles
Article   |   November 01, 2008
Hospital Noise: Risk to Health and Safety
SIG 6 Perspectives on Hearing and Hearing Disorders: Research and Diagnostics, November 2008, Vol. 12, 40-47. doi:10.1044/hhd12.2.40
SIG 6 Perspectives on Hearing and Hearing Disorders: Research and Diagnostics, November 2008, Vol. 12, 40-47. doi:10.1044/hhd12.2.40
Abstract

Human hearing is both sensitive and highly adaptive leading to culturally influenced and highly personal responses to sound. Unwanted sound is generally referred to as noise. Sound at intensities of approximately 85 decibels dBA time weighted average (TWA) is known to cause hearing loss and thus potential occupational exposure is federally regulated. However, sound levels well below those known to cause hearing loss can have negative consequences, particularly in the hospital setting. Numerous studies provide evidence that sound intensities typical of hospitals result in negative physiologic outcomes, reduced speech intelligibility, impaired cognition, and loss of privacy. The World Health Organization 1999 guidelines recommend hospital background levels average no higher than 40 dBA, guidelines that apply to an empty building. Hospitals in use are noisier than ever, averaging 72 dBA during the day.Although accrediting agencies and acoustical experts have begun to provide more specific guidelines related to controlling hospital noise, hospital noise below 85 dBA remains unregulated. Further research is required to provide evidence upon which these regulations would depend. This article will provide the reader with an increased awareness of the risks posed by hospital noise and existing barriers to controlling it.

Acknowledgments
Funded, in collaboration with the National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research through the Nursing Research Initiative by the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Services Research & Development Program for a proposal titled, Speech intelligibility and cognition: Are inpatients impaired by noise? scheduled to begin October 1, 2008.
Become a SIG Affiliate
Pay Per View
Entire SIG 6 Perspectives on Hearing and Hearing Disorders: Research and Diagnostics content & archive
24-hour access
This Issue
24-hour access
This Article
24-hour access
We've Changed Our Publication Model...
The 19 individual SIG Perspectives publications have been relaunched as the new, all-in-one Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups.