Noise levels in a cardiac surgical intensive care unit: a preliminary study conducted in secret

Intensive Crit Care Nurs. 1996 Aug;12(4):226-30. doi: 10.1016/s0964-3397(96)80106-6.


Noise in hospitals frequently exceeds recommended levels and has detrimental psychological and physiological effects on patients and staff. The aim of this study was to record the noise levels within the cardiac surgical intensive care unit (CSICU) environment in secret. The device used was a CEL Instruments environmental noise meter concealed in a dummy box featuring temperature and humidity digital displays. It allowed greater than 16 hours recording time at a 1-minute resolution. The 24-hour period was covered by overlapping recordings. The data collected were downloaded onto a personal computer for analysis. The maximum sound level recorded was 100.9 decibel level (dBA), 1 min Lmax (the maximum sound level occurring in a 1-min period). The minimum sound level was 61.3 dBA 1 min Lmax. The continuous background noise was at its lowest at 57.5 dBA 1 min equivalent continuous sound pressure levels (Leq) and at its peak 77.3 dBA 1 min Leq. Noise in the CSICU was above the recommended levels for patients and staff well-being. Future studies will be designed to establish a correlation between sound levels and events.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Health Facility Environment
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Maximum Allowable Concentration
  • Noise / adverse effects*