Pineda and her team studied soundscapes in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). Working with preterm infants born at 28 weeks or less gestation, placed either in private rooms or in open wards, the researchers learned that “There was [significantly] more silence in the private room . . . than the open ward, with an average of 1.9 hours more silence in a 16-hour period. . . . Understanding the NICU auditory environment paves the way for interventions that reduce high levels of adverse sound and enhance positive forms of auditory exposure, such as language.” The research team reports that premature infants in private rooms may not hear enough people talking, and this may harm their development. Previous research by Pineda indicated that babies treated in private rooms, when tested at age 2, did not have as advanced language skills as otherwise similar children who were treated in more open wards.
Roberta Pineda, Polly Durant, Amit Mathur, Terrie Inder, Michael Wallendorf, and Bradley Schlaggar. “Auditory Exposure in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: Room Type and Other Predictors.” The Journal of Pediatrics, in press.