In the ongoing battle to reduce noise in hospital patient units, much attention has been paid to the floor and the ceiling. Over the years, several case studies have shown that sound-absorbing ceiling tile and carpet can help significantly reduce excess noise on a unit. But what about the walls?
Because essential equipment in patient rooms is often mounted either inside or on the wall, addressing noise via the walls has been a bit of a challenge. While design solutions can be utilized in new construction projects to reduce noise, as illustrated in this 2008 Healthcare Design magazine article, what can be done in existing facilities?
A case study at Affinity Health System's St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton, Wisconsin, addressed this scenario directly. At St. Elizabeth's, an acoustically absorbent wallcovering product was applied to two walls of an active patient room. Even treating only two walls of the room, measurements showed the wall system significantly reduced the reflection and transmission of speech band frequencies, resulting in noticeable reductions in noise.
Beyond the walls, other noise-reducing solutions for the space between the ceiling and the floor are easy to implement and relatively inexpensive. For example, quiet doors can make a huge difference, as can quiet curtain rings.
So, it’s clear: There are opportunities to reduce noise throughout the typical patient room. One only has to take the time to truly assess the sources of the noise, not just through scientific measurements, but by observing life on the unit and noting the regular sources of loud sounds. The key is taking the time to listen. This is the true first step to any sound-reducing program.