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Over hundreds of thousands of years, our ears have evolved to provide perfect hearing outdoors, in nature. But today most of us spend up to 90% of our time indoors, in environments not suitable for the human ear. This has long-term effects for both patients and staff in healthcare facilities.
Hospitals are places where ceilings, walls and floors all have hard and reflective surfaces. When it comes to sound, this means there is nothing to absorb it. It will bounce around and spread everywhere it can, raising noise levels and making it hard to relax and to have normal conversations.
A good sound environment is possible
It doesn’t have to be this way. There are solutions – sound absorbing ceilings and walls that comply with the hygiene demands in every kind of hospital environment, from intensive care units and operation rooms to patient rooms and airtight laboratories.
This means patients and staff no longer need to cope with poor environments. Instead, we can safely bring the outdoor sound environment indoors, to increase wellbeing, performance, rest and recovery.
Research shows that high sound levels in hospitals and healthcare facilities:
- Impair sleep
- Increase stress
- Raise heart rates
- Delay post-illness rehabilitation
Enabling communication is vital in operation rooms
In specialist care areas, doctors and nurses have to communicate continuously in order to ensure that everybody is informed about what is happening and what is to come. It is crucial that decisions can be made quickly and that everybody is clearly informed about them.
When an acoustic solution is introduced, the change will be very noticeable. Stress levels will drop, staff will be able to communicate clearly without raising their voices and patients will have a much better chance of remaining calm.
In a study done by Saint-Gobain Ecophon at Hvidovre Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, two operating rooms were given different acoustic treatments. In operating rooms, communication is often made more difficult by sounds from technical equipment, activities and speech that bounce back and forth between all the hard surfaces in the room. This was the environment in the original operating room. Introducing a sound-absorbing ceiling reduced the overall sound level and hindered the sound from spreading. This was further enhanced with wall absorbers. They reduced the noise and thus improved speech clarity even more. Staff clearly experienced the difference and stated that, the most improved room was the place where they were most relaxed and could communicate without effort.
In this study three operating rooms were involved in the project. The first room was treated with an acoustic ceiling and the second one with both acoustic ceiling and wall absorbers. The participating staff worked in all three operating rooms.
Benefits of good acoustics in healthcare back office set ups and corridors
Up to 40% of hospital premises can consist of office environments. These offices may be used for administration, hospital management or nurses and doctors in wards. A wide range of activities are included in office work. At any given time, people may be talking on the phone, working in teams, holding meetings or performing tasks at the computer that require concentration.
Corridors are busy and vibrant areas in healthcare settings. They are everywhere and a natural part of every unit and ward. Patients, visitors and staff use them to move from one place to another. They are also used for moving beds, medical equipment and other supplies.
The solution is to stop sound close to the source, before it spreads, by adding sound-absorbing ceilings and walls. When this is achieved, and people are no longer disturbed by high-level background noise, they will naturally lower their own voices, resulting in reduced sound levels and improving speech clarity.
According to the India business head of Ecophon, Mr. Prateek Tandon, “In healthcare set-ups, it is important that acoustic solutions also meet the strictest hygiene demands with regards to cleaning and disinfection, and Ecophon has the right portfolio of ceiling systems and wall paneling solutions which can cater to these requirements in Medical facilities.” For more information about good acoustic solutions for healthcare premises, please visit http://www.ecophon.in or write in to EcophonIndia@saint-gobain.com