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Comfort and safety

Why noisy hospitals are bad for our health

By Knauf Insulation
November 04, 2021

We need to look at new ways of improving hospitals to maximise recovery and healing — better acoustics could be just what the doctor ordered.

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.

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.

Excessive noise not only impacts patients. In operation rooms sound insulation is critical to ensure quiet concentration, while on wards excessive noise can be stressful for nurses and doctors who may feel increased fatigue, less alert, more stress and ultimately less productive.


Crucially, there may also be mis-communication which compromises healthcare or important discussions with patients or their families that are distorted.


Challenge of acoustic care and cleanliness

Dr Andreas Xyrichis, lead author of the King’s report, told the BBC: “Hospital soundscapes need to be considered as a whole not just the noisiest elements such as machinery and alarms but also low intrusive sounds such as squeaky doors.”

Maro Puljizević, Acoustics Project Manager

Maro Puljizević, Knauf Insulation’s Acoustics Project Manager at our Core Research and Development Department, says:

Hospitals, health centres or any building that houses the elderly, vulnerable or sick faces a constant challenge of providing a comfortable nurturing environment while still remaining efficient, functional, clean and hygienic. Often this will mean hard, shiny surfaces that are easy to clean but bounce reverberating noise along corridors and rooms.”

How Knauf Insulation can help

Knauf Insulation has specialised sound solutions for every area of the hospital envelope from the façade, roof and basement to partition walls, dividing walls, ceilings and flooring, wet room areas and operating theatres.

The company has also worked closely with hospitals around the world to provide sound insulation. In Turkey, for example, Knauf Insulation provided 500,000m2 of Mineral Plus IPB series Partition Wall Board in two emergency government COVID-19 hospitals in Istanbul.

In Sweden our Urbanscape Green Roof solution can be found on the country’s second biggest hospital Karolinska in Stockholm covering a surface area of 26,000m2.

In Serbia we developed our own Rock Mineral Wool lamella to meet acoustic demand in the Balkans, already 1,900 m2 of this solution has been installed in a cardiovascular hospital in Belgrade. The Serbian team has now developed the complete system (lamella, primer, glue and paint).

Karolinska Hospital Sweden Green Roof
Haga Hospital

In the Netherlands, Haga Hospital was the first hospital in the country to achieve BREEAM  Excellence certification.

Optimal sound insulation was critical and this is why our Acoustifit system with ECOSE Technology® was chosen.

A total of 11,000m2 of insulation was provided by Knauf Insulation including single wall and double gypsum board from Knauf.

Find out more information about our solutions for acoustic challenges on our website.

Would you like to learn how good Sound Insulation of the building can bring you more Green Building Rating System points.

Request documents below and we will show you how our products can contribute to earning points in different categories including Acoustics Comfort.

Acoustic Brochure Cover

Acoustic Excellence Creates Better Buildings

Our acoustic brochure showcases the various solutions Knauf Insulation offers to reduce day-to-day noise pollution.