Western Governors University
WGU Student ID#000282046
Noise in the NICU: Is it too loud?
The NICU is often cluttered with loud, unpredictable noises from a variety of sources; such as cardiorespiratory alarms, ventilators, phones, opening and closing of portholes on incubators, and staff conversation. Simple caregiver tasks such as running water, opening packages inside an incubator, disposing of trash in a metal container, and placing formula bottles on a bedside table, all can produce sounds well over recommended levels, some as loud as 75.3 decibels (Johnson, 2003). However, an optimal physical, psychological, and social environment is a necessity for the preterm …show more content…
Excessive noise may also have an influence on the neuroendocrine system and potentially affect immunity. Marked increases in cortisol levels can occur and may ultimately result in lowered immunity and digestion. High sound levels have been found to cause a response in the adrenal cortex and sympathetic nervous system which can cause an increased release in adrenocorticotropic hormone and increased production of cortisol. These changes can cause long lasting effects such as muscle wastage, hypoglycemia, and a compromised immune system (Brown, 2009).
Besides contributing to stress, excessive noise in the NICU has also been shown to contribute to hearing loss in preterm infants. Numerous studies have examined noise levels in the NICU and have reported averages ranging from 50 to 90 decibels with peaks of 120 decibels or more (Kent, 2002). The noise of the incubator motor alone is 55 to 60 decibels, and the warmer bed can be as loud as 62 decibels. Preterm infants in the NICU are exposed to enhanced auditory stimulation and reduced vestibular stimulation when they should be experiencing reduced auditory stimulation and enhanced vestibular stimulation from their mother’s movements in the safety of her womb.
Analysis of the cochlea in the preterm infant has shown that they are still in the process of differentiation and myelination of the auditory pathways, and this continues after birth. Continuous exposure to the aversive sensory