Designing for Acoustics in a Changing Healthcare Environment – New Podcast

08 February 2019

Commercial Architecture magazine and Rockfon’s acoustic specialist Gary Madaras, PhD, discuss optimizing the acoustics inside alternative types of healthcare facilities

Illustrative image, healthcare, hospital, nurse, elderly patient, care, blurred background.

Acoustic design not only affects patients, but employees as well

Rockfon’s acoustic specialist Gary Madaras, PhD, and Commercial Architecture magazine team up for a series of articles and podcasts on optimizing acoustics. The January/February edition kicks off the series with a focus on acoustics in a changing healthcare environment.

Listen to the latest episode of the podcast now 

The new healthcare environment

Madaras proposes that the ways healthcare is being provided are changing rapidly, and so must the perspective and approach to healthcare acoustics.

More and more, healthcare is being provided outside of traditional hospitals, such as in assisted living homes for elders, chemotherapy clinics, dialysis treatment centers and other types of alternative facilities. Unfortunately, new acoustics research that focuses on understanding the impact of quietness, auditory privacy, designed background sound and music in these different types of healthcare settings remains practically non-existent.

Designers and specifiers cannot necessarily look to industry standards and guidelines for help when designing these alternative healthcare facilities because they do not typically keep pace with the rapid changes being seen in healthcare delivery. Instead, forward-thinking designers and specifiers can apply a fundamental, humane and empathetic approach to the acoustic design.

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Three-step approach for optimizing acoustics

To help designers bridge the gap between industry design guidelines and the new ways healthcare is being delivered, Madaras recommends a three-step process for creating optimal acoustic conditions in high-performing healthcare facilities:

  • First, gain a complete understanding of what the patient and caregiver will experience inside the space.
  • Next, assess and prioritize the six core acoustic goals: accurate communication, auditory privacy, noise control, designed background sounds and positive auditory distractions.
  • Lastly, select the best design strategies that work well for the project based on the prioritized acoustic goals.

Applying these principles, Madaras shares numerous examples ranging from a physical therapy room in a rehabilitation center to a family consolation room in a hospice, from a pharmacy to a cafeteria in a neighborhood clinic, a dentist’s outpatient oral surgery room to a nurses’ station in a chemotherapy treatment center.

Patient, nurse, hospital, healthcare

In a healthcare setting, a positive acoustic experience can be critical not only to the wellbeing of patients, but also to caregivers, staff and visitors.

Acoustic accessibility and inclusion

Are spaces being designed for the average, normally hearing-enabled person? If so, Madaras asks, how does that affect everyone else in the room, including those with hearing impairments or who do not speak English as a first language? What can be done to help everyone hear and be heard?

Madaras talks with Commercial Architecture’s editor in the February podcast about the design considerations and auditory needs of people in eldercare facilities,

Designing spaces for people who have hearing loss and those who speak English as a second language also can achieve success with the three-step approach to optimized acoustics: compassion for the room’s occupants, prioritization of the room’s acoustic goals and implementation of the strategies to meet the room’s goals.

In a healthcare setting, a positive acoustic experience can be critical not only to the wellbeing of patients, but also to caregivers, staff and visitors.