Noise levels in patient rooms and at nursing stations at three VA medical centers

Jennifer N. Hill*, Sherri L. LaVela

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objectives: To conduct an assessment of sound, dB(A) levels, in two areas of the hospital: patient rooms and nurse stations using sound meters (SMs). Background: The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends sound levels of 35 dB(A) during the day and 30 dB(A) during the night; however, many hospitals exceed these recommended levels. Assessing post-occupancy sound levels enables hospital administrators and healthcare workers to identify whether interventions to improve sound levels are needed. Methods: Sound assessments were conducted at three healthcare facilities in both patient rooms and nursing stations, and we include information on facility characteristics. An Amprobe SM-20A Sound Level Meter was placed for a 24-hr period and recorded decibel levels every 8 min. These sound levels were averaged for each hour for reporting purposes. Averages as well as highest and lowest readings are reported for both daytime (8 a.m.–10 p.m.) and nighttime (10 p.m.–8 a.m.) for each facility. Results: All three sites are considered urban and are classified with the highest complexity level (1a). Average daytime measurements for patient rooms and their corresponding nurses stations were as follows: Site A—63 dB(A)/56 dB(A), Site B—52 dB(A)/55 dB(A), and Site C—42 dB(A)/59 dB(A). Average nighttime measurements for patient rooms and nurses stations were Site A—62 dB(A)/55 dB(A), Site B—48 dB(A)/55 dB(A), and Site C—42 dB(A)/60 dB(A). Conclusion: Our findings, considered independently and collectively, showed that facilities in this study exceeded the WHO-recommended sound levels for patient rooms of 35 dB(A) during daytime and 30 dB(A) during nighttime. Research has reported negative patient outcomes, for example, decreased satisfaction, sleep disturbance, and higher incidence of rehospitalization in patients staying in areas with higher noise levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-63
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Environments Research and Design Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Environment of care
  • Nursing unit design
  • Patient room design
  • Patient-centered care
  • Post-occupancy evaluation
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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