The Book of Acoustics

8.0 Commercial applications

8.4 Healthcare

The primary function of a hospital or healthcare centre is to provide an environment for healing, comfort, recovery, and sleep. It is also a work environment for doctors, nurses and other staff members.

In a hospital, the ability to relax and recuperate are just as important as speech confidentiality and the ability to work efficiently. Both restful and optimised working environments are therefore needed to support patients’ recovery and enhance communication between staff members. In a hospital, sources of noise include everything from footsteps in the corridor and conversations between staff members, patients and visitors, to banging doors and beeping medical equipment. Research conducted on the impacts of noise on hospital patients and staff members shows that noise presents more than a source of annoyance. Noise has also been linked to sleep disturbance, elevated blood pressure, increased heart and respiration rate, higher medication needs post-surgery, and even negative impacts on wound healing.

A good acoustic environment, on the other hand, has been shown to have positive effects on patient healing and care. Following the improvement of hospital room acoustics in one study, pulse amplitudes were lower among intensive coronary care unit patients, incidences of re-hospitalisation decreased, and patients reported greater satisfaction with hospital care.

Design strategies

  • For patient bedrooms, treatment and examination areas design private rooms with enclosed walls and soundabsorbing materials and acoustic panels
  • Add sound absorption tiles to the ceiling to increase speech intelligibility and prevent sound from traveling to adjacent areas
  • In rooms shared by multiple patients, add absorbent room dividers that go from floor to ceiling.
  • Eliminate or reduce noise from medical equipment whenever possible.
  • Insulate windows
  • Design rooms for staff members and visitors in each unit where private discussions can take place.
Space function:

Design goal:

Healing and productivity Reduce noise levels, increase speech privacy and appropriate mix of restful and productive environments
Target reverberation time:

Maximum noise rating level:

0.5-0.9 NR 35

The Book of Acoustics

This is a handbook for architects and interior designers who want to create acoustically beautiful spaces that make people feel happier, healthier and more productive.