Tone it down: Hospitals as loud as chainsaws

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Hospital rooms can be as noisy as chainsaws, according to a new study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Center found that inpatient rooms almost always exceeded recommendations for average and maximum noise levels, set at 30 to 40 decibels by the World Health Organization, Reuters Health reported. Researchers found that the average noise level in patient rooms was close to 50 decibels and sometimes as high as 80 decibels, equivalent to that of a chainsaw. The noise disruptions mostly come from staff conversation, roommates, alarms, intercoms and pagers, according to Medscape Medical News (registration required).

The result? Loud hospital rooms are associated with clinically significant sleep loss among patients and even may hinder recovery. Patients exposed to the loudest average nighttime noise levels (50 decibels) slept an average of 76 fewer minutes than those patients exposed to the quietest average nighttime noise levels (43.3 decibels).