As designers work to minimize noise disruptions in healthcare facilities, a related issue is ensuring patient privacy.

For example, in exam rooms, an electronic sound masking system producing at least 42 dBA should ideally be combined with walls that terminate 6 inches above a ceiling with a high Ceiling Attenuation Class rating, says Benjamin Davenny, senior consultant in acoustics at Acentech. This will significantly limit the transfer of noise, and better ensure private discussions between medical staff and patients inside the rooms.

Privacy in open areas, such as waiting rooms, can be improved with a ceiling with a high Noise Reduction Coefficient and electronic sound masking set between 45 and 48 dBA, he adds.

Additionally, Tina Larsen, principal at Corgan, says, “White noise has been shown to be effective in improving the acoustics in reception areas, waiting areas, and open areas with multiple staff cubical work stations in office environments, but little research has been done to determine the effectiveness in the hospital environment.” So she recommends separations such as hard wall partitions or acoustical panels between patient areas, along with acoustical ceiling systems where required.

Similarly, Tom Simbari, senior project manager at Bergmann Associates, prefers focusing on design and space planning over noise systems. For example, locating spaces where the exchange of confidential information takes place away from the patient check-in area and separating check-in from waiting.