Measured Noise Levels in the Hospital with Correlating Patient Perception

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Rachel Marie Lyle1
Mercy N. Mumba, Honors BSN, RN, CMSRN2
Deborah Behan, PhD, RN-BC2
(1)College of Nursing, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
(2)Evidence Based Practice and Research Committee, Texas Health Resources, Bedford, TX


The primary objective of this study were to (1) determine de-identified patient perceptions of noise and compare with the actual current noise levels within their rooms. Other objectives of this study were to: (2) determine the actual decibels of noise within the hospital, including the nurse’s station, hallways, and patient rooms; (3) determine the noise sources occurring within the rooms and hallways at the time of decibel measurement; and (4) identify the most disturbing causes of noise to the de-identified patients.


This was a quantitative study with a two-part design. It is both a correlational study correlating patient perceptions of noise levels within their rooms and the actual current noise levels within their rooms. The other part is a descriptive study describing the most disturbing sources of noise to patients. The hospital investigated for this study was a hospital with a size of approximately 300 beds located in north central Texas. A decibel meter was used to measure sound levels in the hallways, nurse’s stations, and patient rooms of different floors of the hospital on different days of the week at differing times of the day. Patient rooms were randomly selected from the floor to measure noise levels within and 187 observations were recorded. No identifying information was collected and participation was voluntary. After obtaining verbal consent, two dB measures were taken in each patient’s room: (1) in the doorway at the extent of the length of the door with the door open, and (2) in the room at the foot of the patient’s bed with the door closed. Two questions were asked of the patient, “Is the noise level right now okay for you?” and “What would you say has been the most disturbing cause of noise during your hospital stay?” An observation log was used to record these decibel readings, as well as to record the sources of noise occurring within the room at the time of the dB measurement. Answers to the question “Is the noise level right now okay for you?” were recorded in the observation log as a “Y” or “N”. Patient answers to the open-ended question, “What would you say has been the most disturbing cause of noise during your hospital stay?” were recorded verbatim. Statistical software called SPSS was used to determine differences and correlations between noise levels and patient perceptions.


A significant negative correlation was found between patient perception of noise levels and decibels recorded in patient rooms with the door open. The morning time frame was found to be the noisiest and the time with the lowest patient satisfaction with noise levels, followed by nighttime and then late afternoon. The majority of the most cited disturbing noise sources to patients were those occurring outside the patient rooms. Alarms, beeping noises, and staff talking in the hallway were cited most often.


Excess noise is often reported by patients as one of the most disturbing factors during their hospital stay. Scores on the HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) Survey from the particular hospital studied have also shown poor patient satisfaction in the area of hospital noise. The majority of patients were okay with the current noise levels at the time of our interview, however many stated that there were periods during their hospital stay in which the noise level was not okay. There is a need for staff education involving findings of this study regarding the current noise levels, causes of patient disturbance, and ways to reduce noise levels on the floor.  Because patient satisfaction with noise levels decreased as noise levels with the door open increased, one recommendation would be to keep patient doors closed when possible. Other recommendations to improve patient satisfaction with quietness of the hospital would be for staff to keep conversations in the nurse’s stations or away from patient rooms and attend to alarms or other beeping noises as quickly as possible.