Audiometric test rooms are always improving. As hospitals offer an increasing number of services, existing facilities are often squeezed into smaller spaces. In the case of audiology test rooms, there is often a need to diagnose complex conditions. As a result, background noise levels have to meet recognised standards. The required design standards within the UK are generally HTM 08-01 and / or ISO 8253. These standards cover audiometric test methods and the acoustics required to ensure complete compliance. When adjacent departments and waiting areas become closer to existing audiology rooms, their acoustic design often needs to be improved. This is usually accommodated by utilising a higher degree of sound isolation and noise control.

It is crucial to any audiology testing environment that the correct background noise levels are consistently achieved. A reliable acoustic performance will ensure a consistent test and ultimately diagnosis for the patient. This is crucial, but often overlooked at the planning and construction phase for new facilities. Wherever possible, the level of sound isolation required should be achieved no matter what the noise levels are externally.

The Acoustic Problem

Kettering General Hospital had such an issue with one of their Paediatric Test Rooms which was consistently under-performing and in need of modernisation. The existing paediatric audiometric test room was located on a lower level floor, adjacent to a busy corridor. Constructed using standard building materials, the facility required not only an improved sound isolation, but also modern, comfortable aesthetics. In addition to this, the background noise levels and reverberation times within the room needed improving.

The Head of Department contacted QuietStar and together, produced a cost effective and attractive proposal. As the preferred main contractor to Kettering General Hospital, Princebuild was appointed as part of a wider refurbishment plan within the department. In turn, Princebuild appointed QuietStar for the acoustic works required to the room.

Acoustic Components Used

The existing audiology room had little in the way of quality acoustic treatment. QuietStar added 3 key products as part of the refurbishment. An acoustic door, secondary acoustic glazing and a fabric faced absorptive wall lining system. The steel acoustic door facilitated a sufficient sound isolation between the room, newly formed lobby and adjacent corridor. The performance of the door meant a 51dB reduction in noise reduction. The acoustic door also meant compliance with DDA requirements with a 825mm clear opening.

Due to a large bay window in the room, of standard double-glazed construction, the level of noise transmitted from outside was higher than required and often meant testing had to be stopped and re-started again and again. To improve the situation, QuietStar designed, fitted and installed a series of movable acoustic secondary glazing units. The secondary glazing was used to dramatically reduce the noise associated with the area directly outside.

To complement the isolation methods and to further improve the overall acoustics, QuietStar also installed a fabric lined wall insulation system to all of the internal walls. By doing this, it would improve the soundscape within the room, reducing reverberation times and improving speech intelligibility. An additional benefit was that it also provided some extra sound isolation from the newly formed lobby, nearby rooms and corridor.

Speaking on behalf of QuietStar, Jason Saunders, Director said: “The Kettering project was a challenge as there was a relatively short window in order to complete all of the works. From receiving the order in March this year, the room had been designed, installed and approved by the hospital by June. QuietStar proved that with some additional soundproofing, the right application and acoustic expertise, the current room could be improved without a specialist booth or the need to relocate.”

Background Noise Levels

When relocating or refurbishing an existing facility, it is important to measure the levels of background noise accurately. This is particularly apparent in refurbishment or relocation projects as the existing background noise levels may have changed from when the original audiometric test room was commissioned. There are often many external noise factors to consider. Assessing each of these individually will ensure the correct solution is provided.

In the case of the room within Kettering General Hospital, the level of sound isolation needed, did not warrant a standalone audiometric test booth. This isn’t to say that the situation would be the same at other clinics. But for this project, the end result has been a success. The newly refurbished room not only meets the required specification but looks new, fresh and an attractive, enjoyable environment for both patients and staff.

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