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How noisy is too noisy?

Excessive noise in care settings can have a detrimental effect on residents’ health and wellbeing. Tim Dallinger of Social Care Consultants Ltd explains why care homes should be taking this issue seriously

Care homes can be such noisy places. As a hearing-impaired person, I am quite noise sensitive, and I know that sounds really strange. I visited a care home recently to support them with some compliance issues and I was conscious of the constant noise. Most of the time I can tune out the noise, but this time I decided to listen to see if I could identify the various sources of the noise. I could hear the call bells, the TV (on volume 99) from the bedroom next door to the manager’s office, and staff speaking loudly both to each other and to people who live in the care home. 

It is difficult to obtain data on noise levels in care homes, as few studies have been carried out, but if we look at the equivalent noise levels in hospitals this gives us a useful comparison. According to the Dementia Services Development Centre at the University of Stirling, noise levels in hospitals have increased over the last 40 years, seeing a rise from 57 to 72 decibels (dB). Even in intensive care units, which cater to the most vulnerable patients, noise levels over 100dB have been measured. Some examples of excessive noise include dropping a stainless-steel bowl, which creates a noise level of around 108 dBs – more than the 100 dBs caused by a nearby car horn. Raising/lowering a bed rail can be as loud as 90dB; this is actually as loud as a lawnmower, which requires the user to wear ear protection. Just the simple act of dropping rubbish in a foot-operated bin has a noise level 53-82dB, which is as loud as a busy street.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends1 that noise levels in healthcare settings do not exceed 40-50dB in the daytime. At night they should be below 30-35dB. It is important to note that dB are logarithmic, so 50dB is 10 times more powerful than 40dB, and 60dB is 100 times more powerful than 40dB. From this, we can conclude that health and care settings have become much noisier and that the noise levels are often in excess of recommended limits. 

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Upcoming Events

Care Show London

ExCel, London
24 April 2024 - 25 April 2024

Future of Care Leaders Conference

The King’s Fund, London
Tuesday 30th April 2024

Care Roadshows - Liverpool

Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool
14th May 2024

Care Roadshows - Birmingham

Villa Park Stadium, Birmingham
16th May 2024

Care Home Awards

Royal Garden Hotel, London, W8 4PT
17th May 2024

Care & Occupational Therapy Show 2024

Westpoint Arena, Exeter
Wednesday 17th July 2024

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