Exploring the Effect of Sound and Music on Health in Hospital Settings: A Narrative Review


T. O. Iyendo


International Journal of Nursing Studies




BACKGROUND: Sound in hospital space has traditionally been considered in negative terms as both intrusive and unwanted, and based mainly on sound levels. However, sound level is only one aspect of the soundscape. There is strong evidence that exploring the positive aspect of sound in a hospital context can evoke positive feelings in both patients and nurses. Music psychology studies have also shown that music intervention in health care can have a positive effect on patient's emotions and recuperating processes. In this way, hospital spaces have the potential to reduce anxiety and stress, and make patients feel comfortable and secure. This paper describes a review of the literature exploring sound perception and its effect on health care. DATA SOURCES AND REVIEW METHODS: This review sorted the literature and main issues into themes concerning sound in health care spaces; sound, stress and health; positive soundscape; psychological perspective of music and emotion; music as a complementary medicine for improving health care; contradicting arguments concerning the use of music in health care; and implications for clinical practice. Using Web of Science, PubMed, Scopus, ProQuest Central, MEDLINE, and Google, a literature search on sound levels, sound sources and the impression of a soundscape was conducted. The review focused on the role and use of music on health care in clinical environments. In addition, other pertinent related materials in shaping the understanding of the field were retrieved, scanned and added into this review. RESULTS: The result indicated that not all noises give a negative impression within healthcare soundscapes. Listening to soothing music was shown to reduce stress, blood pressure and post-operative trauma when compared to silence. Much of the sound conveys meaningful information that is positive for both patients and nurses, in terms of soft wind, bird twitter, and ocean sounds. CONCLUSIONS: Music perception was demonstrated to bring about positive change in patient-reported outcomes such as eliciting positive emotion, and decreasing the levels of stressful conditions. Whilst sound holds both negative and positive aspects of the hospital ecosystem and may be stressful, it also possesses a soothing quality that induces positive feelings in patients. Conceptualizing the nature of sound in the hospital context as a soundscape, rather than merely noise can permit a subtler and socially useful understanding of the role of sound and music in the hospital setting, thereby creating a means for improving the hospital experience for patients and nurses.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Anxiety; Blood Pressure; Hospital Setting; Hospitalized Patients; Mental Health; Music Listening; Music Medicine; Music in Combination with Other Techniques; Psychological Outcomes; Recorded Music Listening; Stress; Surgery; Vital Signs

Indexed Terms

Auditory Pathways; Hospitals; Inpatients; Internal-External Control; Mental Health; Stress; Emotion; Environment; Health; Hospital; Music medicine; Music psychology; Noise; Positive soundscape; Sound perception; Stress reduction

Study Type

Quantitative Methods; Systematic Review

PubMed ID


Document Type