Noise in hospital intensive care units--a critical review of a critical topic

J Crit Care. 2012 Oct;27(5):522.e1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrc.2011.09.003. Epub 2011 Oct 26.


Purpose: The aims of the study were to examine the studies related to hospital noise in intensive care units (ICUs) to understand the sources and effects of noise and to describe best practices and common problems in the varying methods commonly applied to reduce the noise level.

Materials and methods: The ISI Web of Knowledge and PubMed were used to search original research articles to obtain articles related to hospital ICU noise analysis.

Result: This review article analyzes the 29 extant studies related to noise in ICUs.

Conclusion: Significant opportunities exist to improve methodologies to study noise levels to reduce noise in hospital ICUs. Many previous studies have used inconsistent methodologies with poorly defined parameters that make it difficult to compare results. Our work points out common pitfalls in the recording and sharing of hospital acoustic parameters and also points to the paucity of important economic considerations in extant studies. These results can be helpful for future research in this area. Many past salutary interventions--including educational noise reduction programs, behavioral modification using sound detection equipment, and low- as well as high-cost environmental alterations--do not generally appear to be adequate to minimize noise to levels for hospital rooms specified by international agencies. But a potentially important clue for future work involves the finding that as the number of patients and staff of the ICU increases, noise levels appear to also increase.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acoustics
  • Environment
  • Hospital Administration*
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Noise*
  • Noise, Occupational
  • Patients
  • Perception