This article by Crawford and others was published in the September 2018 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.
Continuous and intermittent exposure to noise elevates stress, increases blood pressure, and disrupts sleep among patients in hospital intensive care units. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of a behavior-based intervention to reduce noise and to identify determinants of noise in a medical intensive care unit. Staff were trained for six weeks to reduce noise during their activities in an effort to keep noise levels below 55 dBA during the day and below 50 dBA at night. One-min noise levels were logged continuously in patient rooms eight weeks before and after the intervention. Noise levels were compared by room position, occupancy status, and time of day. Noise levels from flagged days (>60 dBA for >10 hrs) were correlated with activity logs. The intervention was ineffective with noise frequently exceeding project goals during the day and night. Noise levels were higher in rooms with the oldest heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system, even when patient rooms were unoccupied. Of the flagged days, the odds of noise over 60 dBA occurring was 5.3 higher when high-flow respiratory support devices were in use compared to times with low-flow devices in use (OR= 5.3, 95% CI = 5.0 – 5.5). General sources, like the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system, contribute to high baseline noise and high-volume (>10 L/min) respiratory-support devices generate additional high noise (>60 dBA) in Intensive Care Unit patient rooms. This work suggests that engineering controls (e.g., ventilation changes or equipment shielding) may be more effective in reducing noise in hospital intensive care units than behavior modification alone.
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