Is Hospital Noise Causing Patient Deaths?

The question seems contradictory, but it’s a valid concern. A recent article in The Huffington Post explored the possibility that noise in hospitals was contributing to patient stress levels – and death counts.

It’s not what you think. The noise it self isn’t causing patient deaths. Can you imagine slowly going crazy from the stress of hearing hospital machines beep hour after hour?

No. The real problem is “noise fatigue,” and if you think about it, it’s not all that uncommon, even in our homes. There are tons of great pieces of technology put to use in hospitals every single day. The problem is that they all use the same form of communication when alerting nurses to malfunctions or emergencies – beeping.

Just like very few people respond quickly to the sound of a car alarm, nurses become tired of hearing the sounds of blood pressure monitors and other machines. It’s not that they’re consciously ignoring those sounds, either. They simply get to the point where they don’t hear them as clearly as they used to, mostly because they’re going off all the time.

The problem with this is the idea that malfunction noises can’t be differentiated from emergency noises, often leading nurses to not know which to take seriously. As a result, a number of patients die each year because emergency treatment is administered too late.

The numbers? About two dozen annually. But in our opinion, that’s two dozen too many.

Soundproofing obviously won’t help this situation, but some sort of technology needs to be developed that will allow nurses to really know when a patient is suffering. Perhaps some of the monitors should be hooked up to pagers or buzzers – things that can only go off if certain criteria are met. Things that simply can’t be ignored.

Only time will tell.

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