Noise is everywhere. I live in a multi-unit, high-rise building on a bustling street in a lively city—there is no escaping it. Honking cars, barking dogs, and music from a party next door (come on, it’s three in the morning on a Tuesday) could easily drive even the most centered person crazy, increasing one’s heart rate and subsequent stress level.

But how does noise affect a patient’s overall well-being within the healthcare setting?

A 2010 study in the Journal of Noise & Health found that it isn’t the noise itself that can be so destructive, but how the individual perceives the noise. Additionally, individual differences matter even more because it is noise sensitivity that actually causes levels of noise annoyance. Thus, what may be annoying to you (perhaps it is chirping birds on a sunny day) may in fact be quite pleasurable for me.

Furthermore, another important fact to note is that noise sensitivity and its relative annoyance seems to affect ones physical health, but not ones mental health. So what may seem to be just a tad bothersome, like the humming sometimes associated with a central air conditioning unit, might actually be quite significant when it comes to those recovering in a healthcare facility.

How can the designer create a healthcare space where noise is most pleasing to all?

The associations between noise sensitivity, reported physical and mental health, perceived environmental quality, and noise annoyance by Schreckenberg, Griefahn, and Meis can be read in full at