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Quieter intensive care units may translate to better outcomes for infants in new study

May 13, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. May 13, 2019 -- Excessive noise is widely known to have negative effects on health, and children in neonatal intensive care units are among the most vulnerable. To help preterm infants make a smooth transition to life outside of the womb, some NICUs have instituted set quiet times to limit children's exposure to potentially dangerous levels of noise.

Researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, George Washington University and Baptist Health South Florida conducted one of the first studies linking the quiet time soundscape inside NICUs with infant health. The study examined the effects of quiet time implementation in multiple NICUs on infants up to 18 months after implementation, giving the group a sense of which features of quiet time policies have the largest impact on the youngest patients in the hospital.

The team will present their findings at the 177th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, which takes place May 13-17, at the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky.

"Although the NICU noise literature dates back more than 40 years, even recent studies show that ambient NICU noise often exceeds recommended levels," said Dr. Erica Ryherd. "Despite the growing evidence of the negative impacts of NICU soundscapes on infants, there are large and pressing gaps in the literature that need immediate attention before ideal, evidence-based NICU soundscapes are achievable and more widely implemented."

Ryherd, Dr. Jonathan Weber, and Dr. Ashley Darcy Mahoney from Baptist Children's Hospital worked with nursing staffs at NICUs as they developed their own quiet time guidelines, including limiting conversations, dimming lights, and coordinating scheduled cleaning services, at set hours every afternoon and night.

The researchers then analyzed how each NICU's soundscape changed throughout the day. Acoustic measurements revealed that certain stressful pitches were quieter, very loud sounds occurred more infrequently, and total amount of quiet time throughout the day was longer. The infants in the NICU had healthier heart rates during quiet time hours.

From this data, the group recommends using quiet time protocols to help NICU patients in addition to implementing architectural noise reduction strategies in NICUs.

The researchers hope that their work stokes interest in how noise affects other types of hospital patients and beyond, including how public spaces are designed to mitigate the effects of loud sounds. The group looks to continue their work with currently ongoing studies on healthy built environments and on the impact of language on health outcomes among children.
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Presentation #1aNS1, "Quiet time impacts on the neonatal intensive care unit soundscape and patient outcomes," will be at 9:05 a.m., Monday, May 13, in the Segell room of the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky.

MORE MEETING INFORMATION

USEFUL LINKS

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Technical program: https://ep70.eventpilotadmin.com/web/planner.php?id=ASASPRING19
Press Room: http://acoustics.org/world-wide-press-room/

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In the coming weeks, ASA's World Wide Press Room will be updated with additional tips on dozens of newsworthy stories and with lay language papers, which are 300-500 word summaries of presentations written by scientists for a general audience and accompanied by photos, audio and video. You can visit the site during the meeting at http://acoustics.org/world-wide-press-room/.

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We will grant free registration to credentialed staff journalists and professional freelance journalists. If you are a reporter and would like to attend, contact the AIP Media Line at 301-209-3090 or media@aip.org. Our media staff can also help with setting up interviews and obtaining images, sound clips or background information.

LIVE MEDIA WEBCAST

A press briefing will be webcast live from the conference Tuesday, May 14, in the Laffoon Room of the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. Register at https://aipwebcasting.com to watch the live webcast. The schedule will be posted at the same site as soon as it is available.

ABOUT THE ACOUSTICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA

The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) is the premier international scientific society in acoustics devoted to the science and technology of sound. Its 7,000 members worldwide represent a broad spectrum of the study of acoustics. ASA publications include The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (the world's leading journal on acoustics), Acoustics Today magazine, books, and standards on acoustics. The society also holds two major scientific meetings each year. For more information about ASA, visit our website at http://www.acousticalsociety.org.

Acoustical Society of America

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