Vanderbilt Doctor Solving Problem Of Unnecessary Hospital Noise

Posted at 8:32 AM, Jul 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-21 09:37:13-04

Have you ever tried to sleep in a hospital? It's hard to get rest with all the beeps and alarms. In fact, some hospitals can be as loud as 72 decibels. Now, a Nashville doctor said he's found away to cancel-out unnecessary noises.

"My background previous to medicine is in music," said Dr. Joseph Schlesinger. "So I'm very sensitive to sound."

Dr. Schlesinger is an Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He knows that constant beeping can keep his patients from getting much-needed sleep.

"The dinging of machines. It's fatiguing to me and nurses and respiratory therapists. But also for my patients they can't sleep," he said. "Certainly it effects their sleep cycle, which may lead to things like ICU delirium, or PTSD. Certainly it doesn't help the healing process."

Now he's working on way to give patients peace and quiet. His research happens in a padded room. The walls absorb the smallest sounds, even the floor gives way to reduce any echo. 

He's created a working version of his idea. It's a small black box connected to a microphone and a pair of headphones.

The device filters sound and one day could be small enough to fit into a patient's ear.

"We've developed a device that takes the alarm out of the experience for the patient. But importantly, it lets other environmental stimuli pass through," he said. 

That means, you'll still hear your doctor, but you won't hear the alarms.

"[Patients] hear these alarms. They think they're serious and often times alarms are false alarms. They don't have any clinical significance."

According to one recent study of a single ICU, only 15 percent of alarms were considered "clinically relevant." About 40 percent of them were simply incorrect.