Donna Hannaway, Head of Marketing UK and Ireland at Forbo Flooring Systems, explains the importance of good acoustics when choosing care home flooring.
We are all aware that excess noise can become a real nuisance if left unchecked. In fact, not only is it distracting, but a number of researchers have demonstrated that people who live and work in noisy environments are more likely to develop harmful health conditions, such as heart disease and high blood pressurei. However, the impact of excess noise is even greater for elderly people.
According to Age UKii, we have an ageing population with one in five people set to be over the age of 65 by 2030. The 85+ age group is also the fastest growing and is set to double to 3.2 million by mid-2041 and treble by 2066.
With this in mind, demand for care homes and nursing facilities will continue to rise, meaning that empty bedrooms will be a thing of the past. Whilst this is good news for estate managers, it is vital to ensure that facilities cannot only cope with more occupants, but that they can contribute positively to their care experience, health and well-being.
There are many factors to take into consideration, but good acoustics is key – especially when facilities are full to capacity with tenants, staff and, of course, visitors. Although excess noise can affect us all, the impact is even greater for those with dementia. As we grow older, for some of us, our hearing may deteriorate, which is called presbycusis (age-related hearing loss). In fact, according to Age UK, around 40% of people over 50 in the UK have some form of hearing loss.
Presbycusis can make it difficult for a person to tolerate loud sounds or hear what others are saying. As such, it is important that excess noise is reduced to improve intelligibility of speech, so that those with presbycusis can talk more easily. If noise is not controlled and people are struggling to hear speech or engage in conversations, this can lead to social isolation and lonelinessiii.
Those that are living with dementia are even more susceptible to the negative impact of excess noise. This is because dementia can worsen the effects of sensory changes by altering how the person perceives external stimuli such as light and noise.
Too much background noise can cause stress for those with dementia. What’s more, as hearing is linked to balance this can also lead to a greater risk of falls either through loss of balance or through an increase in disorientation, as a result of people trying to orientate themselves in an environment that is overstimulating and noisyiv.
It is easy to understand why minimising background noise is important and, luckily, there are many ways that noise can be controlled. For example, soft surfaces and furnishings will absorb sound to prevent echo and contain sound.
Shortening the reverberation time of sound will also make speech easier to understand. There is also a wide range of specially engineered flooring solutions available with sound reducing functionalities that will meet the cleaning and maintenance, design and installation requirements for care homes and nursing facilities.
In addition to its wide portfolio of solutions suitable for the care sector, Forbo has recently developed a whitepaper called ‘The Importance of controlling noise in the built environment’. It highlights the different types of sound that can occur in a building, the relevant regulations to adhere to, as well as the benefits of installing acoustically engineered flooring solutions. Free to download, it is the perfect guide to help you increase your knowledge of acoustics.
To learn more about Forbo’s flooring solutions for the care sector, please visit
www.forbo-flooring.co.uk/care or to download Forbo’s ‘The Importance of controlling noise in the built environment’ whitepaper visit www.forbo-flooring.co.uk/whitepapers
Sources: iCardiovascular effects of environmental noise exposure, National Center for Biotechnology Information; iiLater Life in the United Kingdom 2019, Age UK; iiiAcoustic research in care of the elderly, Ecophon SAINT-GOBAIN; ivDementia-friendly environments: Noise levels, SCIE.