Striving for Optimum Noise-Decreasing Strategies in Critical Care: Initial Measurements and Observations


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Abstract

To identify baseline sound levels, patterns of sound levels, and potential barriers and facilitators to sound level reduction. The study setting was neonatal and pediatric intensive care units in a tertiary care hospital. Participants were staff in both units and parents of currently hospitalized children or infants. One 24-hour sound measurements and one 4-hour sound measurement linked to observed sound events were conducted in each area of the center's neonatal intensive care unit. Two of each measurement type were conducted in the pediatric intensive care unit. Focus groups were conducted with parents and staff. Transcripts were analyzed with descriptive content analysis and themes were compared against results from quantitative measurements. Sound levels exceeded recommended standards at nearly every time point. The most common code was related to talking. Themes from focus groups included the critical care context and sound levels, effects of sound levels, and reducing sound levels—the way forward. Results are consistent with work conducted in other critical care environments. Staff and families realize that high sound levels can be a problem, but feel that the culture and context are not supportive of a quiet care space. High levels of ambient sound suggest that the largest changes in sound levels are likely to come from design and equipment purchase decisions. L10 and Lmax appear to be the best outcomes for measurement of behavioral interventions.

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