Being in hospital is never a joy so a speedy recovery is a desire for anyone admitted. However latest research states that hospitals are so loud that they are hindering patients’ recovery. Here we look at what this means for patients.
A recent study from researchers at King’s College London found four in 10 (40%) patients are bothered by noise at night in hospital. And in an editorial published in the BMJ medical journal, they argue it is a worsening problem.
The researchers warned that excessive noise can impact patients’ ability to rest, heal and recover due to the vast research linking noise pollution to negative effects on our bodies.
Examples of noises that patients have to endure include alarms, conversations between staff or patients, ringing phones and rattling trolleys.
Dr Andreas Xyrichis, lead author, said: “Even in intensive care units, which cater for the most vulnerable patients, noise levels over 100dB have been measured, the equivalent of loud music through headphones.”
It has also had a negative impact on staff.
The noise from their daily working environment is known to hinder communication, causing annoyance, irritation and fatigue, detrimentally impacting the quality and safety of healthcare.
Staff performance and wellbeing is also affected, compromising caring behaviour and contributing to a burnout.
Dr Xyrichis added: “We know hospital noise has disruptive consequences for sleep – machine sounds in particular have a greater negative effect on arousal than human voices.
“Post-hospitalisation recovery is also compromised.”
Dr Xyrichis went on to say: “For example, coronary care patients treated during noisy periods were found to have a higher incidence of rehospitalisation compared to those treated during quieter periods.”
Patients who are in hospital for several nights have spoken of feeling trapped and stressed, leading to requests for premature discharge and heightened risk of trauma and readmission.
The team said more research is needed on ways to measure patients’ perceptions of noise as up to this point as they have been limited.
Not all the patients perceived the sounds as noise with some finding the sound of the tea trolley pleasing as they have associated it with receiving a warm drink.
Dr Xyrichis mentioned that measures to tackle this problem which have provided some benefit included ear plugs, noise warning systems, acoustic treatment panels, educational initiatives and noise reduction protocols.
He concluded by saying: “However, so far, patients have been seen as passive recipients of hospital noise rather than active participants in its creation.
“It is essential that future solutions should have greater patient participation as a key feature.”
This story is the latest in a longline of research highlighting the detrimental effects of noise pollution on our health.
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