Noise and Dementia

A person with dementia may be more sensitive to noise. Noise affects people differently from a mild response or catastrophic reaction. Some may have a threshold of a few minutes and others may become overwhelmed after an hour.

Each person’s coping style to noise is different. Their individual coping style and personal tolerance to noise will impact how noise will affect the resident. The person may not be able to tell you how the noise is affecting them.
Noise can be frustrating, confusing, scary, and can physically hurt. Examples of noise: fire alarms, overhead paging, pagers, etc. Common behaviors with noise include yelling, crying, moaning, mumbling, pacing, repetitive behaviors and words, increased pacing, attempts to leave, etc.
Noise studies should be conducted yearly as part of the Quality Assurance Program. This study will clearly indicate what changes need to be made. Staff often times, become desensitized to noise because they hear it on a day to day basis.

Providing a soothing, calm and quiet environment may help to decrease medications and use of restraints. Some tips to providing this soothing environment include:
•    Eliminate overhead public address systems.

•    Avoid playing music throughout the facility.

•    Minimize noise from necessary institutional support systems such as icemakers, carts, pill-crushers.

•    Enforce policies regarding care giving staff talking loudly to each other.

•    Regulate the amount of noise generated by group activities; close the doors if necessary.

•    Utilize sound absorbing materials in public areas.

•    Use pleasant sounds as cues (bird song as residents are arising or singing show tunes or hymns before meals).

•    Play pleasant, soft music during meal time.

Phillips, R.N.