Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

TV presents one picture of an intensive care unit (ICU) – dimmed lights, hushed voices and softly bleeping machines. The reality is that it's more like a busy restaurant and frequently it's noisy enough to compete with a pneumatic drill. That's why Oxford University researchers have been trying to make intensive care noise less intensive.

Professor Duncan Young from Oxford's Kadoorie Centre for Critical Care Research and Education said: 'High levels of noise make it harder to sleep, sleep deprivation leads to confusion, and confusion is thought to complicate the healing process and slow recovery.

'Yet our research found that during the day, noise levels in an ICU are equivalent to those of a busy restaurant. While things are quieter at night, we still found that sounds louder than 85 decibels – around the level of a road drill – were happening up to 16 times an hour.'

Concern that intensive care noise was delaying recovery led to a £280,000 grant from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), to understand the noise issues and then work to reduce them.

Similar stories

Evaluating risk to people with epilepsy during the COVID-19 pandemic - study wins international prize

In May 2020 our researchers initiated a global project to investigate how COVID-19 has affected people with epilepsy, their carers and health care workers.

New European initiative to accelerate the discovery and validation of biomarkers for neurodegenerative diseases

Members of the European Platform for Neurodegenerative Diseases (EPND) will establish a collaborative platform for efficient sample and data sharing, linking existing European research infrastructures to accelerate the discovery of biomarkers, new diagnostics and treatments for the benefit of people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Major research network to investigate body clock and stroke

The University of Oxford is part of a new international research network to investigate the interactions between the biology of the body's internal clock and the disordered physiological processes associated with stroke.

COVID-19 infection has greater risk than vaccines of causing very rare neurological events

Research reveals risks of developing neurological complications following a positive COVID-19 PCR test, or a first dose of either the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccinations.

Mapping uncharted networks in the progression of Parkinson’s

A major new $9 million project funded by the Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (ASAP) initiative will map the original circuits vulnerable to Parkinson’s on an unprecedented scale. The project is a collaboration between core investigators Stephanie Cragg, Richard Wade-Martins, and Peter Magill at Oxford, Mark Howe at Boston University and Dinos Meletis at the Karolinska Institutet, as well as collaborators Yulong Li at Peking University and Michael Lin at Stanford University.