Alarm fatigue in the ward: An acoustical problem?

Michael Sonne Kristensen, Judy Edworthy, Elif Özcan


This article addresses the need of including acoustical perspectives in the debate on alarm fatigue within the healthcare domain. We show how conceptualisations and proposed solutions to alarm fatigue are unequally distributed across what could be called the ‘alarm chain’: a generic model of the core structural elements and dynamic relations that constitute any alarm scenario. A focal point in the alarm chain – the ‘alarm mediation cleft’ – seems to divide the alarm fatigue literature from the segment of the alarm literature that deals with auditory alarm design. The current healthcare discourse on alarm fatigue is centred around the ‘premediated alarm phase’, which has the consequence of an unfortunate dichotomous approach to the functionality of sound. We address some shortcomings of this approach and outline some methodological implications and potentials of searching for signs of alarm fatigue in the ‘post-mediated alarm phase’.

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ISSN: 1904-500X

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