reducing icu noise

Quieting the ICU: Vanderbilt Researchers Develop Device That Digitally Filters Out Medical Alarm Sounds

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE — Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) may have found a way to improve patient outcomes in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) by creating a device that helps silence the loud audible medical alarms present in hospital rooms.

Frequency-Selective Silencing Device used by researchers in the study

Evidence over the years has shown that loud auditory medical alarms can be detrimental to patient recovery, so Joseph Schlesinger, M.D., and a team of researchers a Vanderbilt helped create a device that removes the alarm sounds, while also preserving the ability of the patient to hear voices and other environmental sounds. 

In their paper, presented at International Community for Auditory Display (ICAD), “Frequency-Selective Silencing Device for Digital Filtering of Audible Medical Alarm Sounds to Enhance ICU Patient Recovery,” the researchers discussed their findings using the device. 


“The shrill and quantity of audible medical alarms are responsible for many negative consequences for patients. The noise of the alarm combined with its frequency often disturbs patients’ sleep patterns, which can be very disorienting. We wanted to create a way that clinicians would still be alerted to necessary patient alarms, while providing a better environment for the patient’s healing process” –Joseph Schlesinger, M.D.


In a simulated ICU environment, researchers evaluated the in-ear device and the results showed clinical and statistical improvement in alarm filtering.

Investigators found improvements in word and phoneme scores using the device

The team hopes their findings will inspire innovations by others across the country to develop affordable and reusable medical-grade devices.

Dr. Schlesinger says that further study on large patient populations are needed to evaluate outcomes and safety. He believes that following their study, there will be many sites interested in investigating use of the device in their patients.

In the future, devices could also be developed to directly alert a nurse or physician caring for a specific patient, says Schlesinger.


Source: VUMC


*title image courtesy healthdirect