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Published On July 23, 2010

CLINICAL RESEARCH

What's That Racket?

The sounds of talking and footsteps, overhead paging, and beeping equipment can add up to quite a cacophony.

72

Average daytime decibel level (about as loud as a vacuum cleaner), recorded in hospitals worldwide, of talking and footsteps, overhead paging, beeping IV pumps and cardiac monitors, telephones, moving bed rails and carts, and other sounds bouncing off the many hard surfaces

 

57

Average decibel level recorded during the day in hospitals in 1960

 

45

Maximum daytime decibel level for patient rooms recommended by the World Health Organization

 

0

Number of hospitals in the past 50 years whose decibel numbers have fallen within WHO noise guidelines

 

30

Decibel level above which noise disturbs sleep

 

133

Peak decibel level recorded in patient rooms during hospital shift changes at the Mayo Clinic

 

24

Percentage reduction in the peak noise level at the Mayo Clinic after administrators taught staffers the importance of speaking quietly and covering IV pump speakers with one’s hand while programming changes; restricted overhead paging; and required the use of padded patient-chart holders to prevent clattering

 

6

Typical number of alarms to which intensive-care-unit patients are hooked up

 

30

Percentage reduction in medical errors reported by one unit at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit after it installed acoustical panels and decentralized its nurses’ stations

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