Constantly beeping machines, coughing patients, noisy visitors, banging doors, the murmur of nurses’ voices, squeaky trolleys, arriving ambulances and arriving traffic, hospitals might not always be the most peaceful place to recover from an illness or operation.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has highlighted the vital role that sleep plays in medical recovery and recommends that sound levels should not exceed 35dB — the volume of a loud whisper — for hospital wards, recovery rooms and treatment centres.
Research by WHO highlights how excessive noise can have a detrimental impact on vulnerable patients such as those with mental health challenges, high blood pressure, those with hearing impairments, those who are blind, babies, young children and the elderly.
“Since patients have less ability to cope with stress, levels should not exceed 35dB in most rooms where patients are being treated or observed. Attention should also be given to the sound levels in intensive care units and operating theaters,” says WHO.
40% of patients irritated by night noise
Unfortunately, sound levels can be much higher in many hospitals. Research by King’s College London found 40% of patients surveyed in the UK had been irritated by noise at night.
Even worse, the research reported that noise levels in UK intensive care — where the most vulnerable are treated — regularly exceeded 100 dB as loud as a lawnmower.