Aims and objectives: The aim of this study was to measure the noise levels in specific locations of an intensive care unit and determine the disturbance levels of patients owing to noise.
Background: Studies have shown that hospital noise is a potential stressor for patients. Noise levels measured in the intensive care unit are mostly far beyond the recommended standards for hospitals, and generally measured around 60-70 dB (A). Although there are a few studies on noise levels in the intensive care unit, no study could be found that compares 24-hour intensive care unit noise measurement data at several locations of intensive care unit.
Methods: The study was conducted with 35 coronary artery bypass graft surgery patients. The intensive care unit noise level was measured by using Bruel & Kjaer 2144 Model Frequency Analyzer next to the bed of each patient. A patient's disturbance owing to the intensive care unit noise was questioned.
Results: Noise levels ranged between 49 and 89 dB (A) with a mean of 65 dB (A). Peak noise levels were measured as high as 89 dB (A). The noise levels measured at different locations in the intensive care unit did not differ significantly. Noises created by other patients, those who were admitted from emergency room and operating room into intensive care unit, monitor alarms, conversations among staff were the most disturbing noise sources for patients.
Conclusion: The patients who were located in the bed which was closer to the nurses' station were more affected by the intensive care unit noise than other patients. Having a previous intensive care unit experience also affected the patients' disturbance levels owing to noise.
Relevance to clinical practice: Nurses are in key positions where they can identify physical, psychological and social stressors that affect patients during their hospital stay. Staff education, planned nursing activities and proper design of intensive care unit may help combat this overlooked problem.