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Hospital Noise

November 30, 2005

A hospital room is the last place you’d expect to get some rest–overhead pages and beeping instruments keep patients up all night. And the problem is only getting worse.


A noisy recovery. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Hospital noise is more than just an annoyance. Studies have shown that it affects the speed of wound healing and interferes with a doctor’s ability to communicate with staff and patients. And the problem’s getting worse. Acousticians Jim West and Ilene Busch-Vishniac of Johns Hopkins found that noise in hospitals has been rising steadily since the 1960s. Today, noise levels are some 10 times higher than World Health Organization standards. West says much of the noise comes from overhead pages and medical devices.

JIM WEST (Johns Hopkins Univeristy):
There is no control over the amount of noise that each of these instruments can make. So you bring in five instruments and the intensity of the sound generated by those all add up.

And so do healthcare costs, because of added days spent recovering.
I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.