High decibel levels in hospitals disturbs both patients and doctors, and increases medical error risks, according to a study.
Noise made by speakers, electronic devices, heating and cooling systems and by loud voices of employees and visitors can result in lapses in short-term memory, according to the study by Johns Hopkins University researchers, reports News Wise wire.
During a two-year research project, acoustics experts Ilene Busch-Vishniac and James E. West found that hospital noise is among the top complaints of both patients and hospital staff members, but that little is being done to address the problem.
Since 1960, average daytime hospital sound levels around the world have risen from 57 decibels to 72 and night-time levels have jumped from 42 decibels to 60, the researchers found.
All of these figures exceed the World Health Organisation's 1995 hospital noise guidelines, which suggest that sound levels in patient rooms should not exceed 35 decibels, they say in the study.
The measurements vary little among different types of hospitals, indicating the problem is pervasive.
Much of the hospital noise falls in the human speech frequency range, making oral communication more difficult. This can force doctors and nurses to speak even louder to be heard, further boosting the noise level.
The researchers who presented their findings at the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, held recently in Minneapolis, say that the majority of hospital noise problems, particularly involving the air handlings systems, are not that easy to fix.