Sssshhhh… ‘Sound Ears’ protecting little ears

Posted 3 Nov 2022
New noise monitoring devices in the Flinders Medical Centre Neonatal Unit are helping the tiniest babies to get more restful and peaceful sleep.

New noise monitoring devices in the Flinders Medical Centre Neonatal Unit are helping the tiniest babies to get more restful and peaceful sleep.

Generous donations from Flinders Foundation supporters have enabled the installation of ‘Sound Ears’ – wall mounted noise meters which display the level of noise in the room.

Featuring a large ear, the meters light up green, yellow or red as the noise level increases.

FMC Neonatal Unit Associate Nurse Unit Manager Jacquie Glazbrook says the Neonatal Unit can be a noisy place, but the monitoring system is helping to make it a calmer environment for babies.

“Naturally, there’s a lot of equipment buzzing and beeping in the unit, and staff communicating with one another,” Jacquie says.

“Little babies are so sensitive to sound...any sudden change in their environment can also lead to  changes in blood pressure, heart rate and breathing for example.

“Where possible we turn down the alarms on equipment to minimise that noise, but that’s not always possible.

“Since installing the Sound Ears we have noticed how loud some equipment is and have changed our practice to include earmuff protection for babies near that equipment.”

Jacquie says the Sound Ears are also providing staff and parents with a visual reminder of the noise their actions may be creating.

“Our babies should still be in mum’s tummy where it’s quiet and protected, so we want to try and mimic those conditions as much as possible here in the unit, and that means a safe, calm, quiet environment with reduced external stimulation.

“A quick glance at the Sound Ears can help us all realise if we, or the environment, are a little too loud, and think about what we can do to reduce that noise – it makes everyone more mindful and in turn helps the babies to rest and recuperate.”

Four Sound Ears units have been installed throughout the Neonatal Unit, mostly in the neonatal intensive care bays where the sickest and tiniest babies are cared for.

But whilst the Sound Ears are helping staff, parents and visitors become more aware of ‘noisy behaviours’, Jacquie says it’s important to remember that “not all noise is bad noise”.

“We don’t want the unit to be totally silent because it’s so important for babies to be able to hear their parents’ voices - we love to hear parents talking to their babies, singing to them, reading to them and bonding with them.”

From life-saving equipment for the sickest babies to support for anxious parents, you can help provide comfort and reduce stress for families of premature babies by making a donation to Flinders Foundation.

Or you can contact us and speak with the Flinders Foundation team about how we can work together to support babies and families at Flinders.


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