Case study: NYC hospital cuts noise

On at least one floor of Montefiore Medical Center, quiet reigns. Rather than enduring the incessant noise of beepers, squeaking carts and loud conversations, patients on the fifth floor of Montefiore enjoy near-silence. The newly low decibel levels are thanks to a program known as Silent Hospitals Help Healing, or SHHH. The program was started two years ago by the nurse manager of the floor, Elodia Mercier, when she noticed that patients' number one complaint was how noisy their stay was.

Now the floor, which has 34 beds and about 40 workers, has fixed squeaky wheels on med and food carts and installed sound-deadening ceiling tiles and curtains. Staff members are asked to wear soft-soled shoes, avoid loud hallway conversations and set their beepers to vibrate. Not only that, patients have the option of wearing headphones while watching television, which cuts down further on ambient noise. Within weeks of inception, the program reduced the noise level on the floor from a city street level of 90 decibels to a library-style level of 65 decibels.

To learn more about the program:
- read this article from The New York Times (reg. req.)