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Are you stressing your residents, patients, and staff with the ‘Evil Axis’ of waiting room soundscapes?

“First do no harm.” Well, that’s the least a facility should strive for in caregiving. Every ill-conceived sound environment causes stress to nervous systems, heightens anxiety, and can cause ill-health, poor work performance, emotional negativity and a variety of other health problems.

Studies show a link between restorative environments and hospital recovery rates, stress reduction, longevity, and pain relief. If you manage a healthcare or lifestyle facility, from a dentist’s office to a hospice, from a retirement community to a nursing home, you need to pay attention.

The research is definitive, and a managed soundscape is a powerful tool to create a restorative environment. Waiting rooms, treatment rooms, common areas, and private care rooms, should manage soundscapes to support a restorative, healing, calming atmosphere. Radio stations that play oldies from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, etc. have their place – in the vintage clothing store – not in your waiting room.

I understand the difficulties in managing a facility of any size, and sound environment is easy to overlook. It’s difficult to motivate staff, maintain education, keep a physical plant in shape, deal with regulations, motivate fund-raisers, process patients through your facility and on, and on.

But there are a few essential elements that are common to every environment within your facility: the (HVAC), visual aesthetic and soundscape. Failure to get any of these elements right and comfort levels fall.  When AC or heating is inadequate, the adverse effects appear dramatically. Chaotic soundscapes can cause stress to your patients and staff nervous system over time.

Do you have a store or coffee shop where you love to hang out?  Or conversely, a place that drives you away and you don’t go back? Retail market research shows that if the soundscape is intentional and matches the demographics of the customer, the store or restaurant has a much higher success rate.

We’ve all walked into a store where the sound was like nails on a chalkboard, and we did a quick U-turn and felt good to get out. With the research, the data, and the recent knowledge of the effects of sound on our physiology, why do we still walk into a healthcare waiting room featuring one of the ‘Evil Axis’ of lousy sound? 

OK, here they are:

  • the mindless radio station playing on poor equipment (often inflicted by the tyrannical office manager)
  • or worse an emotional train-wreck TV show like Dr. Phil or Judge Judy
  • or most awful of all - CABLE NEWS

These sources are the ‘Evil Axis’ of bad sound in waiting rooms. If your facility is ‘afflicted,’ don’t worry we can fix this!

OK, you’re not all musicians or acousticians, and you may not think you have ‘ears to hear.’ It doesn’t matter what you believe; sound has been clinically proven to affect your nervous system, brain, immune system, endocrine system, respiratory rate and other body systems over which you have no conscious control. Just because you can’t smell carbon monoxide doesn’t mean you won’t probably keel over if unknowingly exposed.

When soundscape is intentional and matches the needs of the facility, people feel better, have less anxiety, improve their work performance and have more positive experiences within that facility.

Years ago, I arrived to play therapeutic music at the bedside for one of my first patients. When I entered the room, the cacophony of noise that surrounded my friend who struggled to breathe with advanced emphysema was overwhelming. Staff sauntering in and out of the space, banging trash cans, loud conversations were heard out in the hallway, the equipment was noisy, the paging system was intrusive, and the other patients and visitors were arguing. It was terrible, but I began to play.

Within minutes a new environment settled over the room.  Staff stopped talking, everyone became more conscious of their presence in the room, the other patient fell asleep, and my friend began to breathe with less effort, more profoundly and his face transformed from fear to a smile. I knew I was on to something. Thus started my transformational journey to learn and then teach how to create healing environments with sound and music.

In my work as a communication system designer for Broadway, TV networks, theaters, sports facilities, universities, and the occasional nuclear power plant, I understand how critical managed sound is for collaborative workgroups to function safely and professionally.

I combined this skill with my training as a clinical musician to help healthcare facilities clean up their sound environment and get staff on the same page with regards to sound and music within the facility. The positive results from using a custom created soundscape, are happier, healthier residents and patients, improved staff performance and a more appealing space in which to live and work.

I want to offer you the opportunity to take command of your facility soundscape:

Soundscape Coaching Call with Your Team

Get a full hour of personal consultation with me (James) via phone or Skype with you and your key staff.  In that time, we will discuss modalities for creating healing environments and managed soundscapes. We will define your goals. We will confirm that your staff understands the objectives and how to raise new awareness about techniques that can immediately change the soundscape in your facility. Supplementary materials include a transcript of our call, and recommended resources for future changes (i.e., zoned sound systems, recommended streaming service, wearable pagers, etc.)

Topics covered include:

  • Noise Abatement – Become Mindful
  • Soundscape Basics
  • Brand Awareness
  • Sound System Recommendations and Best Practices

Take control of your facility soundscape today!

Email [email protected]

Like all improvements, there will be costs to bring about changes to your soundscape.  But consider that enhancements to soundscape are minimal when compared to other infrastructure, and they work in your facility 24/7. The gains you make will have immediate positive effects on staff and patients/residents, and with more positive patient experiences, recommendations and patient retention will increase.

I'll leave you with one suggestion. The next time you walk into a new room experience, (store, office, restaurant) listen intently.  How many sounds do you hear? Which ones are loud vs. soft? Are they regular or random? Do any of the sounds or noise obstruct the purpose of your visit? (Like a restaurant that is so noisy you have trouble hearing the person across the table.)

Now consider that all these sounds are affecting your physiology, and your brain is probably working hard trying to discern useful information/data from all the ‘junk.’ After you practice this a few times, you’ll raise a new awareness of soundscapes and develop your favorite spaces. There’s a reason that retail stores spend millions of dollars trying to ‘dial in’ their sonic space to separate you from your money. Powerful soundscapes work!

I look forward to helping you transform your facility soundscape to better serve your patients.

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