The Future of Hospital Sound: Transforming Healthcare Through Sound Experience




Several years ago, a classically trained electronic musician got sick and spent many hours in hospitals. Being a musician, sensitive to sound, she was disturbed by the noise around her: people talking and screaming, doors getting slammed, phones and pagers ringing non-stop, overhead speakers announcing emergencies… and the cacophony of alarms beeping in the dissonance of tritones. Since then, she and her husband (co-author and innovation policy researcher) have embarked on a mission to transform sound experience in hospitals, in collaboration with Johns Hopkins Sibley Memorial Hospital, Stanford Medicine X, TEDMED, and medical device companies. 

When we listen to people talking about sound, their stories are always more than about sound; they reveal what it means to be a human during the most vulnerable times of their lives. In this article, we explore noise as a symptom of culture, how sound reveals the importance of caring for caregivers, the future of auditory alarm design, and the aesthetic realm in palliative care. These perspectives result from a human-centric (rather than technology-centric) approach to innovation, and how transforming the sound of healthcare means focusing on people and their experiences.  

Author Biographies

Yoko Kamitani Sen, Sen Sound

Yoko Sen is an ambient electronic musician who spent time in hospitals as a patient,  founder at Sen Sound, and a former Citizen Artist Fellow at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Avery Sen, Sen Sound SRI International

Avery Sen is a researcher in the field of science, technology, and innovation policy, Chief Innovation Officer at Sen Sound, and a Project Leader at SRI International’s Center for Innovation Strategy and Policy.

PhD, Public Administration (The George Washington University)

MA, International Science & Technology Policy (The George Washington University)

BA, Science & Technology Studies (Cornell University)



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