Sound Experience Research 

What is the most disturbing sound?

Shaun Mir/ Circa


We collaborated with innovation hub at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC (part of Johns Hopkins Medicine) to explore how sound affects people’s environment, experience and emotions, using human-centered design.


We interviewed 40 patients and 10 staff in the Medical-Surgical and Orthopedic unit, asking questions such as:


  • How did you sleep last night?  Was there any noise that disturbed you?

  • Please walk me through all the sounds you have heard staying in this room.  What is the most disturbing sound to you?  How did it make you feel?

  • What is your favorite sound?  Is there any sound that makes you feel safe?  

  • At home, what is your relationship to sound?  Do you prefer silence?  Do you play music often?  What is your favorite music?

  • What do you wish you could hear in the hospital?  What do you wish to feel?

With the help of an acoustic engineer, we created a “sound map” to analyze the acoustic environment of a unit.

Based on the research, we have created recommendations and action items to help the staff improve patients’ perception of noise.

Interested in learning more about our sound experience research?  Please contact us.