One of the first things that people observe when they visit someone in the hospital is the incredible amount of noise. Doors, hallway carts, people, voices, gurneys, and monitor alarms — noise that goes on all day long and around the clock. If your aging parent is hospitalized, it is critical to pay attention to the noise and consider ways to lessen its effect.
The alarm sounds are the worst because they play, over and over, right at an individual’s bedside, and the hospitalized person cannot turn them off. Visitors are able to get away from the sounds by going home, but not patients who often have difficulty sleeping. Moreover, these sounds and alarms, combined with other hospital noises can contribute to the onset of hospital induced delirium in older adults.
Check out To Reduce Hospital Noise, Researchers Create Alarms that Whistle and Sing, a New York Times article that explains how these jarring monitor sounds came to be and how people are trying to solve the problem. Emily S. Rueb, the author explains that today the combined sounds in most hospitals exceed levels set by the World Health Organization, and she also points out that there are a huge number of false alarms, which sometimes cause staff members to take their time when responding. Interestingly, the author writes, these sounds were not tested before they were implemented.
A small group of professionals, including physicians, musicians, device engineers, and alarm manufacturers, is working to improve the hospital alarm landscape by creating more harmonious tones (“… they don’t need to be so startling…”) and setting new standards. They are even thinking about the sounds that a patient should (or shouldn’t) hear at the end of life.
The electronic version of the article has many of the sounds embedded so a reader can listen to existing alarms as well as some of the proposed new ones.
Other AsOurParentsAge posts about hospitals and aging parents: