ICU staff are constantly exposed to environmental noise. Noise in industrial workplaces is evident and therefore is regularly monitored. The acoustic environment of the ICU is neglected, although the growth of instrumentation and monitoring has caused a rapid change in workplace conditions in the ICU.
Annoyance and irritation due to noise can have behavioral consequences on personnel. It has been demonstrated in various test settings that performance level can be maintained during exposure to noise only at the price of increased stress, i.e. higher catecholamine levels. Annoyance also depends on the task being performed. A combination of difficult working conditions, such as night duty, exhaustion, and noise, alter the subjective response to noise. It has been shown that people tend to be less co-operative in such situations, which may cause problems in the ICU (.L.eicb.§Let.a! 1993).
The long-term health hazards for ICU staff resulting from exposure to noise have never been examined. Various epidemiological studies in occupational and residential groups chronically exposed to noise have shown an increase in blood pressure and a larger number of cardiovascular problems. Thus noise may contribute to the burn-out syndrome experienced by ICU staff (van Dij..k , , 1..9.86.; ..L.e.rC,h.e.L.et.a! 199.3).
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