Using Music to Reduce Noise Stress for Patients in the Emergency Department: A Pilot Study

Alison E. Short, Nicole Ahern, Anna Holdgate, Jenny Morris, Balwinder Sidhu


High noise levels in the emergency department (ED) affect patient care and cause noise annoyance (stress) to patients. This pilot project aimed to reduce noise stress by offering patients in the ED a coping strategy: headphones and music. In this randomized controlled study, 30 patients meeting study criteria were recruited, with half undergoing the music intervention. This involved listening to music via headphones and an MP3 player from preloaded playlists in four relevant genres. All participants completed a pre- and post-self-report stress tool, a self-report noise disturbance scale, and visual analogue scales related to stress and music. Results showed a trend toward decreased negative affect scores in the intervention group. Positive affect scores remained constant or increased. Individual comments suggested participants’ enjoyment, distraction, and ‘‘escape’’ from the environment. Results suggested that music may be a beneficial intervention to reduce ED noise stress; however, further exploration is needed.

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by The International Association for Music & Medicine