Simple measures for noise reduction in rooms

Information campaigns in centres, lowering the volume of electronic devices, speaking quietly and changing the times for restocking material. These are some of the measures which have contributed to considerably reducing noise in hospital wards and improving patients’ comfort.

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Several studies link noise during rest to hypertension, cardiovascular disease, heart disease, immune disorders, hormone function disorders, attention and memory deficit, and mood disorders. It has also been observed that reducing noise levels in hospitals at night leads to a reduction in sedatives administered to patients. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends maximum noise levels of 30 or 40 decibels (dBA) in hospital rooms, equivalent to noise levels in libraries or quiet conversation. However, in hospitals these levels are often exceeded. In fact, alarms on many medical machines can exceed 80 dBA, the same noise level as a running train.

Few complaints:

Nevertheless, the number of complaints due to noise are less than 0.2% of total complaints recorded in ICS hospitals (in 2016, 14 complaints were received due to excessive noise).  Furthermore, the latest PLAENSA satisfaction study on hospital care for hospitalised patients, conducted in 2015 by the Catalan Health Service (CatSalut), found a satisfaction rate of 84.5% for perception of calm for night-time rest. In fact, some experts claim that interruptions to sleep due to noise do not lead to dissatisfaction because patients believe such interruptions are clinically necessary.

Clarifying the issue:

Given the perception that noise in hospitals is a problem patients experience without complaint, several ICS centres wanted to clarify this issue by holding meetings with users and professionals and measuring sound levels.

In July 2016 a local newspaper published a letter from a user who complained about noise at the Hospital Universitari de Bellvitge. Following this public complaint, the Citizen Care Unit at the hospital organised a discussion group with patients and family members who had filed complaints on this issue to identify opportunities for improvement. Soon afterwards, a meeting was called with professionals of different categories to address the issue. The conclusions of the two sessions were similar: both patients and professionals believed that silence was essential to improve the rest and recovery of patients and that the hospital could reduce the noise levels in care areas by changing the routines and habits of the professional staff.

Subsequently, 16 sound level measurements were taken at different times, each one lasting 15 minutes, in areas identified as noisy by the professionals themselves. The minimum level was 58.6 dBA (equivalent to the noise of a crowd) and the maximum was 69 dBA (the noise made by a vacuum cleaner), figures considerably higher than those recommended by the WHO.

Based on the conclusions of the meetings, the Hospital de Bellvitge designed the noise-free hospital campaign, aimed at changing the habits of staff, which involved putting up posters and other visual elements to help reduce noise levels. These measures are still being applied.

Source of information:

CAP Cappont [Internet]. Els hospitals de l’ICS aposten per reduir el soroll a les habitacions; March 03, 2017 [query made on August 29, 2018]. Available at




-       To improve comfort and ensure hospitalised patients can rest.
-       To raise awareness among professionals and patients’ companions of the importance of noise reduction.


Customer satisfaction. Noise reduction improves rest for hospitalised patients

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Published on*** 8 Sep 2018


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