Relating hospital acoustics to staff outcomes in real and simulated settings

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Messingher Lang, Gabriel
Ryherd, Erica E.
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The sound environment in hospitals is complex. While there have been several studies that address the acoustic environment in hospitals, there is a limited amount of research done concerning the effect that noise has on staff. This thesis describes two related studies: 1) analysis of the relationships between acoustics and perceptual staff outcomes using an existing data set collected in real hospitals; 2) development of methodologies to test the relationships between acoustics and hospital staff task performance in a simulated laboratory setting. In the first study it was found that mental health and perception of noisiness were occupational factors that were related to the sound environment using a variety of acoustic metrics. Only a few acoustic metrics were shown to be statistically significant related to dependent variables in a direct correlation (e.g., as the acoustic conditions worsened the dependent variable also decreased). However, almost all acoustic metrics tested had a statistically significant relationship with mental health once subjective job strain was considered as a moderating factor. This means that while the direct impact of sound may not be immediately observable, sound may play a more significant role once subjective job strain is taken into account. In the second study, a new methodology was developed to directly relate staff task performance to noise and beta-tested on a single group of subjects. The methodology development included synthesizing a signal that was acoustically comparable to those heard in real hospitals in order to simulate a realistic noise exposure in a controlled environment. Additionally, objective methods of measuring performance and perception were devised by utilizing task performance scripts already validated in other studies and developing new surveys that could be administered to subjects to garner their perceived task performance and perceptions of the simulation room environment, including noise.
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