A study investigating sound sources and noise levels in neonatal intensive care units

  • J Neille
  • K George
  • K Khoza-Shangase


Background. Exposure to noise in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) has the potential to affect neonatal auditory development, sleep patterns and physiological stability, thus impacting on developmental progress.
Objectives. This study aimed to identify noise sources in three NICUs in Johannesburg, South Africa, and to determine the sound levels to which neonates in incubators are exposed at various positions in the NICU. These findings were then compared with the standards recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Methods. A prospective, repeated designs measure was adopted. Sound levels were recorded in five different areas of the NICUs at four different times of the day over the course of 3 days. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics.
Results. Sound levels recorded in all the NICUs were considerably higher than those recommended by the AAP, placing vulnerable neonates at risk for developmental disorders. Significantly, most of the noise was human-generated, highlighting the need to develop awareness of the negative effects of noise in the NICU and to implement programmes to reduce noise.
Conclusion. The findings have important implications for neonatal care, and highlight the importance of noise reduction and monitoring strategies in the NICU.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1999-7671
print ISSN: 1994-3032