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Draping the Emergency Department in Silence Enhances Patient Care and Privacy

Alvarado Hospital is the first in San Diego to drape soundproof curtains around each bed in the ER to reduce noise and increase patient privacy. This new soundproof curtain technology is being patented by its developer, Forrest Sound Products, which plans to take this trend national.

The need for the sound-proof curtains evolved when emergency physicians started discussing new ways to reduce noise and increase privacy in Alvarado Hospital’s ER. Forrest Sound Products, a Washington-based company with production facilities in San Marcos, stepped up to the challenge and offered to work with its acoustic scientists to develop special curtains. After the curtains were hung in July, the results of the acoustic performance study found that reverberation of static noise in the ER was significantly reduced by 30%, which is ideal for creating an environment with increased critical speech intelligibility. In addition, the noise reduction provided by the Hush Curtains protects patient privacy when discussing sensitive issues.

“These new curtains will allow us to effectively communicate with our patients without distracting patients in neighboring beds,” said Dr. Kevin Kelly, director of emergency medicine. Studies have shown that lowering noise levels and increasing speech intelligibility reduce stress significantly during critical operations such as a hospital’s emergency room.

“Understanding conversations between doctors, nurses, hospital staff and patients is critical to efficient operations and patient safety,” said Ben Forrest of Forrest Sound Products. “The curtains absorb and block enough speech noise energy to reduce the ability to understand a conversation in the next cubicle, a significant benefit for patient and health personnel privacy."

The company said that based on the results of its usage at Alvarado Hospital, it will begin marketing the curtains to other hospitals throughout the U.S.