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  • ICU noise exceeding WHO guideline

    Author: AAP

Medical staff at a Belgium hospital have found noise levels in the intensive care unit far exceed what is recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Noise generated in hospital intensive care wards far exceeds World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, new research by a hospital in Belgium suggests.

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After receiving complaints from patients, intensive care staff at the Jessa Ziekenhuise Hospital in Hasselt decided to test noise levels by putting a sound monitor beside a patient's bed and at a nursing station for 24 hours.

Their research showed average bedside noise levels were 52.8 decibels (dBA) during the night and 54.6 dBA in the day. Fourteen peaks above 80 dBA were recorded, including one that registered 101.1 decibels - equivalent to the sound of a pneumatic drill.

The WHO recommends an average sound level of below 35 dBA in hospital wards during the day and says they should not exceed 40 dBA at night.


Medical Officer- Rehabilitation
St Vincent's Private Hospital Northside
Human Resources Advisor
St Vincent's Hospital
Registered Nurse/Clinical Nurse (Accident and Emergency Department)
SA Health, Flinders & Upper North Local Health Network

"The sound levels in our ICU clearly exceeded the WHO recommendations but are comparable with sound levels in other ICUs," Dr Eveline Claes.

Equipment, alarms, hospital machinery and staff activity are all likely to have contributed to noise levels in the ICU, said the authors, who will present their findings at the European Society for Anaesthesiology's annual meeting in London.

But Dr Claes said it's not easy running an ICU without noise.

"We need the alarms to warn us about emergencies," she said.

"The practical solution at present seems to be earplugs or other ear defender devices for patients, although there may be opportunities in the future to modulate alerts through the use of smart alarm systems and to develop equipment that produces less noise."

The study found average nursing station noise levels were 52.6 dBA at night and 53.9 dBA during the day


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