Hospital noise can be problematic for both patients and staff and consistently is rated poorly on national patient satisfaction surveys. A surge of research in the last two decades highlights the challenges of healthcare acoustic environments. However, existing research commonly relies on conventional noise metrics such as equivalent sound pressure level, which may be insufficient to fully characterize the fluctuating and complex nature of the hospital acoustic environments experienced by occupants. In this study, unsupervised machine learning clustering techniques were used to extract patterns of activity in noise and the relationship to patient perception. Specifically, nine patient rooms in three adult inpatient hospital units were acoustically measured for 24 h and unsupervised machine learning clustering techniques were applied to provide a more detailed statistical analysis of the acoustic environment. Validation results of five different clustering models found two clusters, labeled active and non-active, using k-means. Additional insight from this analysis includes the ability to calculate how often a room is active or non-active during the measurement period. While conventional LAeq was not significantly related to patient perception, novel metrics calculated from clustered data were significant. Specifically, lower patient satisfaction was correlated with higher Active Sound Levels, higher Total Percent Active, and lower Percent Quiet at Night metrics. Overall, applying statistical clustering to the hospital acoustic environment offers new insights into how patterns of background noise over time are relevant to occupant perception.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Acoustics and Ultrasonics