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


  • Alison E. Short PhD, MA, BMus, RMT, MT-BC, FAMI, RGIMT
  • Nicole Ahern MPsych
  • Anna Holdgate MBBS, FACEM, MMed
  • Jenny Morris MClinPrac
  • Balwinder Sidhu PhD, MSc



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.

Author Biographies

Alison E. Short, PhD, MA, BMus, RMT, MT-BC, FAMI, RGIMT

Alison E. Short, PhD, MA, BMus, RMT, MT-BC, FAMI, RGIMT, is a research fellow at the Centre for Clinical Governance Research in Health, Australian Institute of Health Innovation, at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

Nicole Ahern, MPsych

Nicole Ahern, Grad. Diploma in Science (Psychology), Masters of Forensic Psychology, was a research assistant in the Emergency Medicine Research Unit at Liverpool Hospital in Liverpool, Australia.

Anna Holdgate, MBBS, FACEM, MMed

Anna Holdgate, MBBS, FACEM, MMed, is director of the Emer- gency Medicine Research Unit at Liverpool Hospital in Liverpool, Australia.

Jenny Morris, MClinPrac

Jenny Morris, Certificate of Nursing, Certificate in Acute Care & Masters of Clinical Practice (Emergency Nursing), is post graduate program co-ordinator, The College of Nursing, Australia.

Balwinder Sidhu, PhD, MSc

Balwinder Sidhu, PhD, MSc, is the service manager of Multicultural Health Service in the Sydney South West Area Health Service in Liverpool, Australia.



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