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Health Systems Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
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Improving the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Soundscape

Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) should be conducive to infant growth and development, but they are plagued by excessive noise. Concerns are rising over soundscape-related infant sleep disturbance, stress responses, hearing loss, retarded growth, cognitive and attention disorders, and speech and language problems. Although the NICU noise literature dates back 40+ years, even recent studies show that ambient NICU noise often exceeds recommended levels. This is in part because there are large and pressing gaps in the literature that must be filled before adequate evidence-based recommendations for reducing NICU noise can be implemented. We propose a pilot study to ignite a series of transformative research studies aimed at improving NICU soundscapes. We will use the results to develop a toolkit of new acoustic metrics and noise reduction strategies that are directly tied to occupant outcomes and can be incorporated into guidelines provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the World Health Organization (WHO), and others. The proposed work will directly benefit NICU occupants and lead to improvements in healthcare delivery, by advancing the understanding of how to implement healthy NICU soundscapes. The results of this research will help bridge the gap between how NICUs are built / operated and the corresponding needs of occupants, thereby facilitating change in an area desperately in need of advancement.

Investigators: Erica Ryherd (Georgia Institute of Technology), Julie Swann (Georgia Institute of Technology), Ira Adams-Chapman (Emory University),

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