Investigation of noise in hospital emergency departments
Mahapatra, Arun Kiran
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The hospital sound environment is complex. Emergency Departments (EDs), in particular, have proven to be hectic work environments populated with diverse sound sources. Medical equipment, alarms, and communication events generate noise that can interfere with staff concentration and communication. In this study, sound measurements and analyses were conducted in six hospitals total: three civilian hospitals in Atlanta, Georgia and Dublin, Ohio, as well as three Washington, DC-area hospitals in the Military Health System (MHS). The equivalent, minimum, and maximum sound pressure levels were recorded over twenty-four hours in several locations in each ED, with shorter 15-30 minute measurements performed in other areas. Acoustic descriptors, such as spectral content, level distributions, and speech intelligibility were examined. The perception of these acoustic qualities by hospital staff was also evaluated through subjective surveys. It was found that noise levels in both work areas and patient rooms were excessive. Additionally, speech intelligibility measurements and survey results show that background noise presents a significant obstacle in effective communication between staff members and patients. Compared to previous studies, this study looks at a wider range of acoustic metrics and the corresponding perceptions of staff in order to form a more precise and accurate depiction of the ED sound environment.