Hearing & Healing


Hearing and Healing with Sound MaskingLast week, Healthcare Design and Contract magazines – in Partnership with the Center for Health Design – announced the winners of The Nightingale Awards from the 2015 Healthcare Design Conference (HCD) in National Harbor, Maryland.

I’m proud to say that LogiSon TARGET earned the Silver Award in ‘Architectural Products: Non-Clinical,’ recognizing its contribution to creating a healing environment. This win seems particularly noteworthy because of the broad range of product types entered in this category. My congratulations to our exceedingly talented design team!

This awards program is, of course, named after Florence Nightingale – a tireless advocate for the improvement of care and conditions in military and civilian hospitals in the 1800s. Given my own interest in acoustics, I find it fascinating that she already observed the impact – not simply of noise, but of dynamic range – on her patients as early as 1860! (If you need to refresh your memory about this subject, see my earlier post ‘Calming the Sea of Dynamic Range.’)

Of course, Nightingale didn’t call it by this modern term, but the concept comes across clearly in her writing when she says: “It is rarely the loudness of the noise, the effect upon the organ of the ear itself, which appears to affect the sick... There are certain patients, no doubt… who are affected by mere noise. But intermittent noise, or sudden, sharp noise, in these as in all other cases, affects far more than continuous noise.”

Indeed, dynamic range can have a number of physiological effects – raising blood pressure, heart rate and metabolism, for example – but Nightingale’s observation is particularly relevant to a patient’s ability to sleep.

Studies show that it’s not peak levels that disturb our slumber, but rather the change in sound from baseline to peak. The more significant that change, the harder it is for us to ‘block out’ the noise and the more likely we are to have trouble falling asleep, toss and turn during sleep, switch to a lighter stage of sleep, or to wake up completely (and in a foul mood, no doubt). That’s why we can typically sleep through, for example, the fairly consistent baseline volume level provided by high density traffic noise, whereas low density traffic wakes us with its frequent ‘bursts’ of volume.

Clearly, steps must be taken to reduce the amount of noise generated in the first place, but it’s impossible to remove all peaks from a busy healthcare setting. Providing a higher and more consistent baseline level, on the other hand, can be easily accomplished by installing a sound masking system. However, in order to get the most out of that investment, the masking sound must be properly tuned for the space in which it’s installed. And that’s where TARGET comes in.

For more information about the importance of properly tuning sound masking in healthcare environments, see my article ‘Tuning Out: The Tech Side of Masking Noise and Conversation in Healthcare Facilities’ on FacilityCare.



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