Noise levels in a general intensive care unit: a descriptive study


  • Martin Christensen

    Corresponding author
    1. M Christensen, RGN DipN, PGC (ICU), BSc (Hons), MSc, MA (Ed), Senior Lecturer (Critical Care), Bournemouth University, Bournemouth House, Bournemouth, UK
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Bournemouth University, Bournemouth House, Christchurch Road, Bournemouth BH1 3LT, UK


The aim of this small-scale study was to measure, analyse and compare levels of acoustic noise, in a nine-bedded general intensive care unit (ICU). Measurements were undertaken using the Norsonic 116 sound level meter recording noise levels in the internationally agreed ‘A’ weighted scale. Noise level data were obtained and recorded at 5 min over 3 consecutive days. Results of noise level analysis indicated that mean noise levels within this clinical area was 56·42 dB(A), with acute spikes reaching 80 dB(A). The quietest noise level attained was that of 50 dB(A) during sporadic intervals throughout the 24-h period. Parametric testing using analysis of variance found a positive relationship (p ≤ 0·001) between the nursing shifts and the day of the week. However, Scheffe multiple range testing showed significant differences between the morning shift, and the afternoon and night shifts combined (p ≤ 0·05). There was no statistical difference between the afternoon and night shifts (p ≥ 0·05). While the results of this study may seem self-evident in many respects, what it has highlighted is that the problem of excessive noise exposure within the ICU continues to go unabated. More concerning is that the prolonged effects of excessive noise exposure on patients and staff alike can have deleterious effect on the health and well-being of these individuals.