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The Hospital Project on Noise, Sound and Sleep

Introduction

Here at the Remark Group we have a keen interest in the benefits of Sound Masking, in particular its effect on wellbeing. We were particularly interested in the HPNoSS project, below we’ve had a look at the benefits of Sound Masking highlighted in the project.

The Hospital Project on Noise, Sound and Sleep

Noise is the top complaint from patients, visitors and even staff in a hospital environment.

Spending a night (or longer) in the hospital is not only a stressful experience but also incredibly loud. The constant alarms and beeps from machines ascend to a discord that produces something far from a relaxing, restful environment.

The Hospital Project on Noise, Sound and Sleep (HPNoSS) is a project that ran from September 2017 – December 2017, bringing together a team of engineers, nurses, academics, artists and patients. The project aimed to provide a holistic understanding of sound in the hospital environment and the intimate relationship of noise to sleep, rest, treatment and recovery.

Florence Nightingale once said, “necessary noise is that which damages the patient” and then went on to say, “Unnecessary noise is the cruellest absence of care.” Although some may argue times have changed since mid 19th-century hospital conditions, the addition of technology and equipment, and with an increase of population means background noise is increasingly on the rise.

Noise Levels in Hospitals

Since 1960, hospital noise levels during the day have increased by 15dB; similarly, noise levels at night have increased from 42dB to 60dB, that’s a huge 18db.

As well as the obvious lack of sleep and hindering rest, high noise levels have been associated with changes in patients heart rate, respiration and blood pressure. These changes increase stress levels and in turn prolong the healing process.

A recent study led by Dr Andreas Xyrichis, who was also involved in HPNoSS, shows that four in ten patients are bothered by noise at night. Researches from Kings College London warned that noise can impact patient’s ability to rest, heal and recover, as noise has been linked to hospital-induced, stress, increased pain sensitivity, high blood pressure and poor mental health.

The HPNoSS Symposium & workshop conducted a number of experiments to test and compare the effects of different sound masking states on participants perceptions of the hospital soundscape. Experiments also took place to test and compare the effects of noise cancelling and sleep friendly headphones with and without sound masking.

HPNoSS Data

Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected during the workshop following participant consent. Qualitative data was collected through existing recorded fieldnotes of observations and audio recording of group discussions later transcribed.

Quantitative data was collected through a set of project specific questionnaires that consisted of both open and closed questions; and captured data on the effects of the various interventions on participants’ experiences and perceptions of the hospital soundscape.

The data collected during the symposium and workshop was analysed and aligned well with the group discussions that occurred during the event. Recurring words like discomfort and stress were mentioned in participants written evaluations, demonstrating the negative effects the hospital soundscape can have on a patient’s emotional wellbeing and overall experience.

Interestingly, the source of stress and discomfort did not seem to derive from one specific noise, but rather a number of different noises experienced at the same time.

Sound Masking

The symposium and workshop provided insight into the effects of sound upon patient wellbeing and rest, in particular how sound masking helps to create a more comfortable and relaxed environment. Sound Masking was perceived to be very promising, with participants responding more positively to sound masking blended with natural sounds, as compared to synthetic ones.

If you would like to know how Sound Masking and Treatment could enhance your business, whether it’s a Healthcare Facility , Law Firm or Head Office, get in touch with our experts today.

You can read the full copy here from the symposium and workshop here.