How is the sound hygiene at your nursing home?

This article is written from a Swedish perspective but hopefully can inspire those interested from other countries.

Creating an environment that promotes well-being and comfort for the residents of a nursing home is not just about physical care and attention, but also about considering the sound environment. Acoustic hygiene plays a crucial role in creating a pleasant and calm atmosphere where the elderly can feel safe and relaxed. Disturbing noises can create stress and discomfort. Chairs without pads that squeak, televisions with TV-shop or radio chatter with commercials that no one listens to. Someone stands and talks on the phone without stepping aside. This can create stress if it is a workplace, but even worse if it is in my home and I can't do anything about it. Take a walk around your nursing home and think about how it sounds.

Foto: Mostphotos

Comfort and Sound Hygiene

What makes a nursing home comfortable? In some places, there is a quiet conversation involving the residents, their relatives, and the staff. Perhaps they are singing songs together or discussing the past.

Sometimes when you enter a nursing home, the radio is playing calm favorites at high volume, or some elderly people are lined up in front of a TV set broadcasting TV-shop or other disturbing and disruptive programs. Is it music or programs that the residents themselves have chosen?

A good sound environment is especially important for those who are hard of hearing. If you have to strain to hear what is said, it becomes harder to understand. By dampening background noise and improving room acoustics, we get a better opportunity to perceive what is being said and it becomes easier to concentrate and it also increases the comfort in the room.
What is the sound picture like when the TV/radio is not on? Is the sound environment dominated by the clatter of porcelain, fans, elevators, scraping from chairs or by one of the residents groaning? Are there interesting conversations or sing-alongs? Is the sound environment harmonious? What is it like to live next to a person who is confused and screams at night?

Small, simple tricks can completely change the sound image. For example, sitting down and talking to the person who is anxious or spontaneously singing songs. Placing pads on the chairs so that they do not scrape the floor and using fabrics and art to improve acoustics. It becomes easier to concentrate and feel comfortable.

Things to consider when it comes to sound hygiene in the nursing home

Background noise:
One of the most important factors to consider is to minimize unnecessary background noise and noise. Noise from, for example, TV sets, rolling carts, and talking can be disturbing and distracting for the elderly. By creating a quieter environment, you can promote better sleep quality and general comfort for the residents.

Placement of activities:
Consider where different activities take place and how they affect the sound environment. Rooms for communal activities should be placed in a way that minimizes disturbances for residents who do not participate. In addition, you can create secluded spaces for activities that require higher sound levels, so that they do not affect the rest of the residence.

Structured Scheduling:
By having a structured schedule for different activities, you can avoid having multiple loud activities taking place at the same time. This reduces the risk of noise overload and creates a more harmonious environment for the residents.

Use of technology:
Technology can help regulate the sound environment in the nursing home. For example, sound-absorbing materials can be used to reduce reverberation and dampen sound levels in common areas. There are also sound masking devices that can be used to create a more pleasant sound environment and block out external noise.

Education and awareness:
It is important to educate the staff at the nursing home about the importance of sound hygiene and how they can contribute to creating a peaceful and serene environment for the residents. Awareness of the impact of sound on well-being can lead to the staff taking active measures to reduce noise and disturbances.

Individual needs and desires:
Finally, it is important to take into account the individual needs and wishes of each resident when it comes to the sound environment. Some people may prefer a more vibrant and lively atmosphere while others prefer peace and quiet. By communicating with the residents and adapting the environment to their preferences, you can create a more personal and satisfying living environment.

Working with sound hygiene in a nursing home is crucial to promoting well-being and comfort for the residents. By taking into account background noise, placement of activities, use of technology, staff education, and individual needs, you can create a peaceful and serene environment where the elderly can feel at home and relaxed.
It requires some thought and planning, but not any large investments.

Reflection questions - Sound hygiene
- What do you do to contribute to creating a harmonious work environment and creating a good atmosphere?
- Do you have conversations that include the residents?
- Do you use song and music to create community, memories, and a good mood?

Manager, nurse, occupational therapist, and physiotherapist:
- What do you do to improve the sound environment?
- Do those who have hearing loss have functioning and properly adjusted hearing aids?
- Do you have a conversation about the sound environment in the unit?

Residents and Relatives:
- Is the sound environment in the unit pleasant?

Erland Olsson
Specialist Nurse
Better care every day

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