Hospital alarms and the 'devil's interval': Why one musician wants to change the hospital soundscape

A few years ago, musician Yoko Sen was hospitalized. During her stay, she noticed near-constant alarms polluting silence, and began to wonder how the noise affected healing, according to The Atlantic.

To Ms. Sen, a cardiac monitor beeps in C. When combined with a bed-fall alarm that makes a high-pitched noise, the dissonance creates a sound that some historically referred to as the "devil's interval."

"People thought it was so disturbing that it was banned by churches," Ms. Sen said at an event co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic.

Noise is often a top complaint for hospitals. Some studies have found during a day at the hospital, noise levels are 72 decibels, which is the same as running a vacuum cleaner. A 2012 study from Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Medicine found alarms went off an average of 350 times per patient per day.

While alarms are meant to keep patients safe and alert their families to any medical changes, they can make healing more difficult. For example, noises emitted by alarms can affect regenerative sleep needed by patients in intensive care, according to The Atlantic.

After Ms. Sen's hospitalization, she set out to create a soundscape that better suited patients. She recently worked with Medtronic to redesign the sound of its new at-home patient monitor. The previous alarm sounded like a "red alert," she told Stat. She aimed for the new device to sound off somewhere in the middle: an attention-drawer, but not a stress-inducer.

For the full article from The Atlantic, click here.

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