Noise in the ICU: Terminology, Health Effects, Reduction Strategies, and What We Don’t Know

By Jacob Molyneux, AJN senior editor

Noise isolation headphones to use in loud environments

via Wikimedia Commons

I woke up this morning, as I do every morning now, to the sound of pile driving at a large construction site a block and half away on the Gowanus Canal. It shakes the earth and reminds me of the forges of evil Sauron in one of the Lord of the Rings movies. I once had a dog lose a good bit of hair when there was a pile driver for several months in the lot behind another apartment in Brooklyn.

The negative physical and emotional effects of excessive noise get an occasional mention lately in health reporting, but in New York City or along the remotest forest lane, the forces of quiet can seem to be in rapid retreat before an army of leaf blowers, all-terrain vehicles, diabolically amped-up motorcycles, huge TV sets, garbage trucks, helicopters, and the like.

Lest I sound like a total crank (I do have useful noise-cancelling headphones plus an Android app that offers such choices as white noise, brown noise, burbling creek, steady rain, crickets, and soothing wave sounds), there’s a reason for the preamble. Florence Nightingale herself called unnecessary noise “the most cruel absence of care which can be inflicted either on sick or well,” as is pointed out by the University of Washington researchers who wrote the latest installment of our column Critical Analysis, Critical Care.

“Noise in the ICU” looks at current research about the health effects of noise in the ICU, provides useful definitions of the terminology used when talking about sound levels, and considers strategies for reducing noise, as well as what still needs more study. The article will be free for a month (until June 15), so give it a look and see if it gets you thinking. After all, to quote the article again, “Studies have found that sound levels in the ICU continue to exceed WHO recommendations.”

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2016-11-21T13:04:45+00:00 May 16th, 2014|nursing perspective, nursing research|0 Comments

About the Author:

Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.

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