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2082 Initial findings from a public participation workshop on the sonic environment in the emergency department
  1. Joanna Sutton-Klein1,
  2. Alex De Little2,
  3. Richard Body1
  1. 1University of Manchester
  2. 2University of Leeds


Aims and Objectives The term ‘sonic environment’ describes the overall ensemble of sounds within spaces. Poor sonic environments in hospitals have been found to ‘impede the recovery process’ for patients and reduce staff performance. Sonic environments are often overlooked in hospital design, leading to spaces which are not supportive for care.

We propose using a qualitative approach called ‘deep listening’ to explore the sonic environment of emergency departments. This is an embodied practice of listening that includes listening to the sonic environment as a whole, focusing on specific sounds, and reflexive elements of journaling and discussion.

We organised a public participation workshop to explore perspectives on the sonic environment of an emergency department as well as their perceptions and experiences of the deep listening methodology.

Method and Design We recruited six participants (5 female, 1 male) who had pre-existing interests in sonic environments or healthcare. We introduced them to deep listening through a series of listening exercises.

Participants then spent 30 minutes in the emergency department practicing deep listening. They were seated in pairs in the waiting rooms for minor injuries, ambulatory patients, and pre-triage walk-in patients.

They then took part in an hour-long focus group. Findings were summarised using thematic analysis.

Results and Conclusion Participants identified a range of sounds including mechanical hums, monitor alarms and the sounds of people moving. The sounds evoked varying reactions among participants, including anxiety when the source or significance of the sound was unknown.

Overheard speech played a prominent role in the sonic environment. Participants reported that they could pick up the emotions within the speech, even if they couldn’t comprehend the words.

In conclusion, participants had positive experiences of deep listening and felt that the sonic environment of emergency departments is an important area for future research and intervention with the aim of improving patient experience, patient safety and staff wellbeing.

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