Gresham Smith


Jacksonville, FL





In the operating room, many surgeries—especially orthopedic and neurologic procedures—produce noise levels as loud as a siren or a rock concert. The hard, non-porous surfaces used for sanitation requirements are acoustically reflective, exacerbating the impact of noise and negatively affect the well-being of staff as well as their job performance and patient outcomes.

While there have been studies validating the need for noise reduction, best practices have yet to be established as noise is hard to quantify. For this reason, our team set out to evaluate multiple scenarios that we could quantify and develop design solutions that will result in a measurable reduction in noise intensity in the operating room.

Research Question:

What design changes in the operating room will improve acoustics, reduce staff hearing loss, and improve staff performance?

After conducting literature reviews, we measured staff stress using interviews and biometric data. Then, we analyzed acoustical readings from three different sized operating rooms at UF Health North in Jacksonville, Florida, under three different conditions: normal operations, with a sound diffusing solution, and with a sound absorbing solution.

Factors Affecting Noise Level


  • Room Size / Layout
  • Wall and Ceiling Configuration
  • Surface Materials


  • Procedure Room Location
  • Adjacency to Equipment
  • Ductwork

We learned that improving operating room acoustics requires either eliminating or mitigating noise producing offenders. The results of this study can improve future operating room designs through sound-absorbing materials and room layouts to better mitigate acoustic problems and improve staff well-being and patient outcomes.