Report: Midwives can suffer hearing damage from the screams of women giving birth
The average noise level during childbirth can pose a risk to those working in the delivery ward. Paediatric nurses and midwives are particularly vulnerable, a report shows.
“Midwives and nurses should use earplugs,” Tron Vedul Tronstad tells Fagbladet (link in Norwegian). He is a research scientist and hearing expert at the research organisation SINTEF.
Louder than a rock band
Occupational hygienist Lars A. Sæle at Oslo University Hospital has measured the noise level in the delivery ward at Ullevål Hospital in Oslo. The measurements show that screams from women giving birth can exceed 130 decibels. That is louder than a full-on rock band – and on par with the sound of a siren.
On average, midwives and nurses in the delivery ward are exposed to 73 decibels of noise during a shift.
Whether sound is harmful and causes hearing damage depends on the duration of exposure, the average volume, and highest sound level.
Immediate risk of harm
“Being exposed to an average of 73 decibels throughout the working day is high but should be possible to tolerate if you get rest afterward. However, if you are exposed to 120 and 130 decibels, there is an immediate risk of harm,” Tronstad says. “Earplugs will reduce the loudest sounds to a level where the risk of immediate harm is not as high.”
Rest can also help, according to Tronstad, because the total load counts, and sound is less harmful if exposure is divided.
The survey was conducted by having two midwives and nurses on each shift wear sound metres attached to their uniforms, for a total of ten shifts, Fagbladet writes (link in Norwegian).
Translated by Alette Bjordal Gjellesvik.