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The Importance of Acoustic Design within Healthcare

Unwanted sounds and noise can have a negative effect on someone who is living with hearing, cognitive and physiological conditions. Therefore acoustic design principals are a key consideration within healthcare design.

Residential homes and mental health facilities can be busy places, both during the day and night, and when an environment is noisy it can lead to health problems. Excessive noise exposure has been linked to:

  • Tension and anxiety - which some residents may be living with already,
  • Reduced performance and productivity in residents and staff.
  • Damage to eardrums or amplification of hearing difficulties - which in the elderly could already be an issue.
  • An increase in blood pressure and stress levels;

Noise exposure can, therefore, be detrimental to anyone, let alone the vulnerable and elderly.

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Limiting unwanted sounds and noise is very important for people who experience difficulty with hearing and for those living with dementia as it makes it easier to filter out background sounds and helps reduce stress and confusion.

When establishing a setting with an acoustically sound environment it can create a sense of calm and wellbeing for those that live and work within that space.

When looking at acoustic design and noise there are two ways in which sound can affect the environment and those living within it.

Sound Impact

sound impactThe first of which is sound impact, which is the noise produced when two objects collide. A typical example of an impact sound is footsteps on a floor resulting in sound being transmitted through the floor construction and heard in the space below. Impact sound can travel through solid structures and through cavities. Impact sound can be considered as a form of psychological damage.

Within UK Building Regulations Approved Document E 2003 it stipulates that a new build must have an impact sound insulation of no more the 62 dB, whilst conversions and renovations must be no more than 64 dB.

Sound Reverberation

The other type is Sound Reverberation and this relates to the number of seconds it takes for the reverberant sound energy to die down to 60 dB or one-millionth of its original value from the instant that the sound signal ceases.

sound reverberation

It is essential for architects and building designers to understand the stand the intended use of space and achieve a suitable reverberation time. If the reverberation time is too long then the communication of speech in spaces such as living rooms can often be too hard to understand. If it is too short then voices may have to be raised.

Reverberation times are determined by the volume of the space and the type of reflective surfaces in the room. Hard surfaces can lead to long reverberation times and create unpleasant echoey acoustic environments.

UK Building Regulations

sound absorptionFocusing on sound impact UK Building Regulations state that floor coverings should have a weighted reduction of not less than 17 dB. There are many flooring options that fall well below the 17 dB required, some achieving as little as 2 or 3 dB. Carpets generally exceed the British Standard and achieve in excess of 28 dB, but it's important to check product specifications and consider other acoustical aids if the flooring falls short of UK Building Regulations.

Carpet is naturally an outstanding sound absorptive material. No other acoustical material performs the dual role of a floor covering and a versatile acoustical aid. A carpet which is manufactured for healthcare environments can absorb airborne noise as efficiently as many specialised acoustical materials.

The benefits of carpet

Within healthcare facilities, corridors and communal areas can be very busy places and ultimately quite noisy. The presence of carpet in such areas helps to absorb unwanted sound and reduce sound impact and reverberation times, which is very important for people who are hard of hearing and for those with dementia.

In summary, good acoustic design improves patient privacy and dignity and promotes essential sleep patterns. Such acoustically sound conditions are key to healing and wellbeing.

Indoor Air Quality

Good acoustics can actively contribute to ensuring that a person with dementia can communicate and remain included within their living environment, be that a care home, supported housing scheme or within hospital care. Belonging and interacting are highly dependent on communication, which in turn is highly dependent on hearing.

A range of changes can affect our hearing as we age and these reduce our performance. Hearing impairment can compound feelings of isolation and frustration and these feelings can contribute to behavioural disturbance. If we can reduce isolation and frustration, we can support people with dementia more effectively. In addition to this good acoustic design brings other benefits in terms of patient and staff comfort and morale, as well as improved efficiency and usability of equipment.

Within mental health facilities, quiet environments and acoustically sound rooms help service users filter out unwanted noise and aids rest, relaxation and the reduction of stress levels. It allows service users to utilise alternative therapies such as music therapy without impacting others. Such environments also encourage open conversation without the fear of privacy issues, which is essential for those living in and visiting mental health facilities.

Find out more about the benefits of our Healthcare Carpet Collection.

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