Quiet down for patients and staff: How to reduce undesirable noise pollution in hospitals  


Published April 2021


By Brad Sweet, commercial marketing leader at Allegion


Hospital rooms used to get away with the basics—a bed and a sliding privacy curtain. Today, some hospitals have the look and feel of a hotel suite. Even visitors experience pull-out beds and other amenities to comfort their ill family or friends in a relaxed environment.


When choosing a health care facility, the quality of treatment and medical care is of the utmost importance. But as the medical marketplace becomes more competitive, patients have more options. And if the quality of care is comparable, given a choice, they will seek out the option that has dedicated itself to the overall well-being of its patients. Would they choose your facility or a competitor?  


It’s also increasingly important to provide excellent experiences as patient satisfaction surveys are directly linked to the reimbursements institutions will receive. With hospitals already operating on small margins, reimbursements can make a big difference.


Noise is often a top complaint noted in the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey, which measures patient experiences. It’s easy to see why. There are a number of audible actions taking place at any given time right outside a patient’s room. Hallway chatter, beeping machines, the opening and closing of doors.


End users in the health care market readily acknowledge the impact of door hardware on creating a quiet environment for patients. Respondents cite slamming doors and the sound of door latches as contributors to noise.

--2016 research by Allegion

Research by Health Facilities Management in 2016 found that nearly nine of 10 hospitals consider patient satisfaction a very important impact on the design of their facilities. It’s easiest to plan for quieter environments during the design of the hospital, but there are many options to retrofit existing spaces. Even small changes, like door closing noise reduction, can impact the patient experience.


A 2016 study by Allegion™ found that end users in the health care market readily acknowledge the impact of door hardware on creating a quiet environment for patients. Respondents cite slamming doors and the sound of door latches as contributors to noise. Therefore, it’s no surprise that nearly half of the respondents report they will adopt quiet door hardware within the next year.


Noise pollution affects everyone in a health care environment—from patients and their guests to the physicians and staff.


Did you know that quiet hospitals help patient healing? It’s been proven that excessive noise can take a toll on the healing body, causing individuals to lose sleep, heal at a slower rate and be less satisfied with their overall care. Patients are already stressed from being in the hospital. This is amplified by the effect of noise on healing bodies. They require rest during their stay, and loss of sleep weakens the immune system, causes agitation and delirium and decreases tolerance to pain. Irritating noise can also elevate a person’s blood pressure and heart rate. Overall, it can cause slower recovery rates, with means longer health care stays and, ultimately, a negative mindset and perception of the health care facility.


The physicians and staff benefit from quieter working environments as well. Those that become more stressed and fatigued in a noisy environment may experience more mistakes, reduced productivity and less friendly dispositions. Loud noises—or even moderate, annoying sounds—are distracting and unpleasant. These can lead to emotional exhaustion and burnout, which can then impact the level of patient care and staff morale. Impaired focus may have the same impact, leading to medical errors. Reducing the noise from pagers, medical equipment and doors opening and closing can combat these issues—allowing caregivers to better tend to patients’ needs.


The impact noise pollution has on both patients and caregivers can affect the entire health care organization. Slower recovery rates lead to longer health care stays. Patients’ perceptions are based on their overall experience. Were they cared for by qualified doctors? Did everything go smoothly, or were there a few mistakes made by personnel? Were they treated friendly? All of this will be reflected in satisfaction surveys, reviews and future recommendations.

Door hardware strategies for noise control


While door hardware makes up a small portion of a health care facility, its impact is noteworthy. Select exit devices that are specially designed to be almost undetectable and door closers that prevent slamming. Consider door handles for patient rooms that have quiet operation and reduce the disturbance of staff entering and leaving the room throughout the day and night.


There are many options available for quieter door hardware in your health care facility. Decide if your entire property needs quiet hardware, or just select wings. A survey among Allegion’s internal specification consultants found that nearly half of their health care customers use quiet door hardware today, with approximately 60 percent using these products throughout the entire hospital. Every area benefits from quiet solutions, though some are more sensitive to sounds:

• Intensive care units (ICU), critical care units (CCU)
• Maternity wards, neonatal intensive care units (NICU)
• Recovery areas
• Chapels
• Offices, administrative rooms and workstations where concentration is important


Allegion offers a variety of products to cut down undesirable noise and improve the patient experience—from auto operators to gasketing, and nearly everything in between. The Von Duprin® QM option controls motion to reduce operational noise. It features damper-controlled re-latching of the rim device and the surface vertical rods, as well as damper-controlled lever return on the trim. Another product to consider is the Schlage® HL Series quiet hospital push/pull hardware for patient rooms. It features dampened paddle action during depression and snap back to reduce noise associated with lock operation. It’s proven to be 50 percent quieter in both the push and pull direction than Allegion’s previous solutions. Additionally, LCN door closers that prevent slamming are available, as well as automatic door operators that open and close the door quietly.


Allegion’s security consultants can help you evaluate your openings and applications to determine the best noise reduction strategy using door hardware in your facility. They are available to assist with specifications and product selection, code compliance, coordinating access control and training.


Contact an Allegion consultant to explore the innovative solutions that reduce the noise of openings while delivering reliable performance.