Noise Reduction in Hospitals

Hospitals are a critical part of any city’s infrastructure. It’s where most of us go to give birth, and it’s often where we go to receive end of life care. In between those two life events, it’s where we go to receive life saving treatment for any injury or ailment that befalls us. Hospitals are important parts of keeping our populace healthy, and it’s important that we keep them operating efficiently. Noise reduction in hospitals is a big part of making that goal a reality. 

It’s something many of us may not think of, but soundproofing products keep hospitals working at their best. Without proper soundproofing, the level of care can suffer. Let’s take a look at why.

Why Noise Reduction in Hospitals is Important

There are a number of reasons why noise reduction in hospitals is important, and doctor-patient confidentiality is one of the biggest. Medical problems are very personal, and many people find it embarrassing to talk about them in front of others. 

When we sit in an office, discussing our conditions with doctors and nurses, we have an expectation that patients waiting in the hallway or next room can’t hear what we’re saying. In fact, the HIPAA Privacy Rule requires it. 

Noise in hospitals can also cause problems with healing. When a patient is resting and recuperating, it’s important that they have a quiet, comfortable place to do so. If the room is too noisy, it can increase stress in patients and hinder healing. 

Chronic exposure to noise can also cause problems with concentration. This can be especially problematic in a hospital setting, since a healthcare provider’s ability to concentrate can mean the difference between life and death. In order to provide the highest level of care, noise reduction in hospitals is incredibly important.

Unfortunately, hospitals have many sources of sound to contend with. The WHO recommended noise levels in hospitals is 35dB(A) during the day, and 30dB(A) at night. Many hospitals currently exceed those limits, and need to mitigate the sound in the building to remain compliant. The best way to do this is by utilizing industry standard noise reduction strategies in hospitals to keep those sounds out of individual patient rooms.

How to Reduce Noise Pollution in Hospitals

If we want to keep hospital sounds where they belong, there are a number of common soundproofing measures that need to be taken to isolate the sounds. Since hospitals tend to be densely populated and run a lot of machinery, sounds can come from everywhere. Let’s look at some hospital noise reduction ideas that really work.

Add Mass to Walls and Floors

The best way to keep sounds from passing from one room to the next is to separate them with thick, dense walls and floors. While most modern hospitals were designed with this in mind, if you’re rehabbing a historic hospital, there’s a chance these details were overlooked. 

You can add a decent amount of mass to your walls with MLV, or mass loaded vinyl. It’s easy to roll out, and adding a layer between two layers of drywall will give your walls much more soundproofing ability than they already have. 

You can use a similar technique on the floors, although it may be a bit more involved. If you happen to be redoing floors, or are able to remove the top layer of flooring, try adding a soundproof underlayment between the subfloor and the top flooring layer. This will reduce impact sounds caused by patients and hospital personnel moving about, and will also prevent many of those vibrations from reaching the people below.

Absorb Sounds Before they Migrate

One of the easiest ways to achieve significant noise reduction in hospitals is to absorb the sound waves the second they impact your walls and ceilings. We do this by covering our hard wall surfaces with something more absorbent. It’s known as acoustically treating the room.

If you’ve got standard drywall, tile, or other reflective surfaces making up the majority of your room surfaces, they will reflect sound waves. These reflections can cause issues regarding echo and reverberation, and a reverberant room is a loud one. You’ve got to do something about it.

By choosing fabric wrapped acoustical panels to serve our art needs, we can hide acoustical materials in plain sight. They can be printed from any digital art file you like, so you can replace the reflective artwork in your lobbies, hallways, and patient rooms with pieces that keep hospital noise levels down.

Panels for Clean Rooms

Since a patient room must remain sanitary at all times, it isn’t realistic to completely cover the walls with soft absorbent materials. The need to clean the room’s surfaces may be even more important than reducing noise in hospitals, so we need to use products that can be meticulously cleaned and still hold up.

For the walls and ceilings, products like Noise S.T.O.P.™ Ultra-San soundproofing clean room ceiling and wall panels are perfect. These panels offer superior noise reduction in hospitals, while meeting demanding clean room requirements. Noise S.T.O.P.™ Ultra-San clean room acoustic panels are available in either faced only model or completely encapsulated model, and the 1 mil reinforced white mylar is also USDA & FDA approved for clean room applications.

Microperforated Wall and Ceiling Panels

If you’re looking for something with an elegant look and great sound absorbing capabilities, microperforated panels are a great option. They are available in all kinds of high end finishes, but the thousands of microperforations in each panel make them an ideal choice for noise reduction in hospitals

Silk Metal™ microperforated panels take this concept to the next level. Most microperf panels are drilled with holes at a 90˚ angle, but Silk Metal™ panels are drilled at an angle, making them exceptionally good at absorbing sound waves. They also look great, can be easily cleaned, and can be inserted into your existing drop ceiling grid for a cost effective hospital noise reduction solution that stands high above the competition.

Soundproof the Rooms Housing Loud Machinery

Hospitals contain a lot of fairly loud electronic devices. While devices like X-Ray and MRI machines are essential parts of providing quality care to the region, they can contribute a substantial amount of unwanted noise to the patient rooms nearby.

Going the extra mile to completely soundproof these rooms well will go a long way to achieving significant noise reduction in hospitals. Pay particular attention to any room that generates more noise than the others.

Door Seal Kits

Doorways can leak lots of sound. Even with the door closed, gaps around the outside edges can allow a lot of sound to pass through. Since sealing those gaps by spraying insulation or filling them with caulk isn’t an option, we treat these gaps a little differently than other gaps in the facade.

Door seal kits work by allowing the door to open and close normally, but create a tight seal when the door is fully closed. Make sure your kit comes with an automatic door sweep. Traditional door sweeps don’t fully seal the gap, since they need to be mounted with enough clearance to open and close the door without dragging. An automatic door sweep sits high enough to clear the flooring material, but presses down into the floor when the door is closed, creating a soundproof seal and reducing noise pollution in hospitals.

Use White Noise Machines to Drown Out Sounds

Even with the most expansive plan for noise reduction in hospitals, it’s unlikely that we’ll eliminate all sounds. We wouldn’t want to do that anyway. A space that’s devoid of any sound is as distracting and uncomfortable as one with too much noise. You’ll want to maintain some signs of life. 

A white noise machine is a great means of noise reduction in hospital settings. These machines mask the environmental sounds in your hospital with a pleasant ambient tone. White noise can help patients get better rest by masking many of these environmental sounds that make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. By drowning out the noises that disturb our sleep, a white noise machine can effectively improve the quality of rest patients get, possibly improving their ability to recover more quickly.

Make Sure your Plan is Solid

Simply throwing up some acoustical panels and door seal kits won’t lower noise levels in hospitals to an acceptable spot on their own. Proper noise reduction in hospitals relies on a well thought out soundproofing plan. If you’re unsure of what exactly your particular practice or hospital needs, consulting with the pros at Acoustical Surfaces is a great way to make sure you’re addressing the aspects that need attention, and avoiding the solutions that will have minimal impact on noise reduction in the hospital setting.

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