Hospitals are noisy and bustling with activity. One of the most frequent complaints that patients have while in the hospital is noise levels. Unwanted noise can increase patient stress levels, heart rate, and blood pressure, and have a deleterious impact on their health. But how can designers help solve the sound and acoustics issue in healthcare?
There are many factors that contribute to a space’s acoustics. In a hospital setting, this might include the humming of an AC unit, carts rolling through a hallway, pills rattling, etc. Furthermore, the kinds of materials used in patient rooms can amplify these sounds, acting as a multiplier to a space’s acoustics. Many materials used in hospitals are hard and therefore acoustically reflective.
One way healthcare designers can reduce a space’s acoustic profile is to use sound-dampening materials. For example, using sound-absorbing ceiling and wall paneling can dampen the sound coming from elsewhere in the hospital. In the past, designers avoided such materials due to concerns about infection control and the materials’ ability to be washed effectively.
Hospital Layout for Acoustics and Sound
The layout of a hospital also impacts noise levels. Certain areas of a hospital, such as HVAC plant rooms and public areas, generate a disproportionate amount of noise. Architects and Designers can develop a design that isolates high-noise areas from noise-sensitive sections. This can be one of the most difficult recommendations to implement because it can be costly and space intensive.
Hospitals generate a great deal of noise, but those noises don’t have to be detrimental to patients. Reducing unwanted noises should be a top priority for the healthcare design team because it can have a significant impact on patient wellbeing.
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Marie Wikoff is the creator of Wikoff Design Studio based out of Reno, Nevada. Her expertise in healthcare design has helped develop modern design for healthcare organizations locally, regionally and internationally. Her credentials include Evidence-Based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC), American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designer (CHID), the National Council of Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) and LEED AP. Contact Marie Wikoff