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Hospital Noise

June 22, 2016

Hospitals are noisy environments, but it doesn’t have to be that way.


Army Medicine CC BY 2.0, via flickr

In the intensive care unit. (Army Medicine CC BY 2.0, via flickr)


Curing hospitals of a noise disorder. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

[Sound of ICU noise] Hospital intensive care units can be a cacophony of round the clock beeps and buzzers.

ILENE BUSCH-VISHNIAK (Independent Acoustical Consultant):

The average person in hospital has about 130 to about 135 alarms going off every day. That’s just one patient.


That’s acoustical consultant Ilene Busch-Vishniak. At a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, she reported that even veteran medical personnel could identify no more than half of the alarms. And while this doesn’t usually lead to medical errors, she says the alarms are simply not useful, and may slow patient recovery. She and her colleagues are re-thinking hospital alarms, with the goal of creating a new system that will reduce bedside noise, and instead push patient monitoring to doctor and nurse-held devices that clearly indicate which alerts require immediate attention. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon