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The New Era of Healthcare Acoustics Specifying optimal ceiling performance for hospitals by Gary Madaras, PhD, Assoc. AIA All images courtesy Chicago Metallic DESIGNERS AND SPECIFIERS NEED TO REACT QUICKLY TO INCREASING DEMANDS BY HEALTHCARE EXECUTIVES, CAREGIVERS, AND PATIENTS FOR BETTER ACOUSTIC QUALITY IN THEIR FACILITIES. High noise levels in hospitals have been shown to adversely affect patient and staff physiological conditions, including heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, skin conductance, and muscle tension. 1 Noise decreases the duration and quality of the patient’s natural sleep cycles and inhibits recovery. Conversely, when the areas around patient rooms are quiet, occupants sleep better. Restorative sleep decreases the need for pain medication, reduces patient fall rates, lowers average length of stays, and improves medical outcomes. In this new era of healthcare, acoustic performance is a top priority, not only in existing facilities, but also in every renovation, expansion, and replacement facility currently on the drawing board. There are no other architectural surfaces more important and available to reduce noise and promote accurate speech communication in healthcare facilities than the ceilings. Considered to be no/low-contact ‘housekeeping surfaces’ by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they do not significantly contribute to nosocomial infections rates. This allows a facility’s ceilings, in most areas, to be acoustically treated for either noise control or for accurate speech communication. In a 2007 Center for Health Design (CHD) whitepaper, “Sound Control for Improved Outcomes in Healthcare Settings,” the authors concluded installing high-performance acoustic ceiling panel systems is a key environmental strategy to reduce noise (and associated perceptions), as well as to have a positive impact on outcomes such as improved speech 54 the construction specifier | september 2013 CS_September2013.indd 54 8/14/13 8:56:57 AM