The Importance of Sound Vibration

Open letter to: Beachwood Admin & Staff

Re: Quality of Life options
Setting: a typical room at the 1340 15th St facility

Background: I am the husband of a patient on the 4th floor and have been visiting her – almost daily – for a year. I have had extensive opportunity to meet many of the staff at Beachwood (formerly Goldstar) serving in just about every capacity. I am very appreciative of the professional and caring nature of the folks who try to ‘make a difference’ there every day.

My discussion centers on the ‘sound environment’ that residents (and family members) encounter. As expected many sounds are integral with the operation: attending to various medical procedures, working with patients, renovation / construction, moving utility carts and equipment around on each floor, etc. These are unavoidable.

The optional sounds are generally found coming from the TV. Patients are given a remote to change channels, adjust volume, and so on. This is where the phrase ‘sound environment’ really enters the equation. One person’s choice of sound may be quite different than someone else’s. Obviously. The problem is that the audio from a TV set, with its speakers set up on the far wall (the greatest possible distance from the patient listening to it ) does not stay in one spot, stopping at the curtain or doorway. No.. the sound goes everywhere.
An example …. Family Feud on Monday at mid-day.


TVs are running like this full strength all day – with a mix of CNN, Golf, FOX News, and countless game shows. In order for any one person to hear the show at his bedside, he is obliged to turn up the volume to drown out anything else. The result? bedlam. Timeline? Continuous.

Sound can be uplifting, nourishing, entertaining, or disturbing. My wife happens to be a musician, and played piano & viola for years. She appreciates classical music – finding this to be very nourishing for the soul. When we visit I bring a library of music on my phone and connect it up to a portable Bluetooth speaker. It fills the room with wonderful sound and she loves it. Even her room-mate likes to hear a bit of Mozart now and then.

There is no Mozart coming out of cable TV.

Part of the answer may rest in placing a pair of small speakers (less than $100) facing inward and near the head of each bed. These can be fastened to the upper rail in such a way that the patient can hear the sound track from the TV clearly and at a reasonable volume for personal listening (the speakers can also be connected to any portable device he or she may have). I am pretty sure there will be a way to do this so that: (a) the system is attached to the rail permanently, and (b) in a manner that will not interfere with either the patient or health care personnel in their duties.

Connection: the simplest way is via a standard audio cable from the flat-screen to the speakers. The cable can be routed across the upper edge of each side of the room, and then down the wall near the bed. In this way, the speakers can be used by the patient (or family member) for audio from the TV or from any other device or tablet. When the bed is moved (for cleaning or relocation) the speakers will travel with the bed, but disconnected from the audio cable … obviously.

Alternative: wireless connection via Bluetooth. Although this would eliminate the audio cable, this arrangement would require separate Bluetooth codes for each device and flat-screen. Installing audio cables, as suggested above, is more work initially, but the ongoing maintenance and general operation would be much simpler. Also, some residents at the facility (and family members) may find dealing with Bluetooth to be a bit daunting. I’ve managed to figure this out fairly easily, but not everyone can be expected to do so.

With internet access, the choices for music are unlimited and far greater than any selections available from the TV. In fact, I once compiled a list of favorite YouTube clips that can be played on any WiFi-enabled tablet or phone. Instantly. These can be heard on headphones or on the system outlined here. There is virtually no Internet connectivity for residents or guests on the 4th floor (at least anywhere near the NW corner of the building) so this option is unavailable until that changes. The Mozart clip shown above was heard via YouTube and taped on the 5th floor in the past few weeks.

There are many elements contributing to a patient’s ‘quality of life’. Addressing the sound element may be one of simplest tasks to really make a difference. Sound is pervasive but it can be restrained to some degree via the plan I have outlined.

Implementing a system like this would set Beachwood apart from any long-term care facility that I have seen. I’ve seen a few.

I am available to go over this further if this makes sense to you.

Jeff Dunan / husband of Hadidjah Fielding in 416A
PS: one option, in place at UCLA on 16th Street (and in many hospitals), is a patient-operated remote with a built-in speaker that is hard-wired to the TV and located at the bedside. My guess is that installing this would be a lot more involved, time-consuming, and costly than placing a two small speakers onto the upper bed-rail. Also, the sound from the speaker set would be far better.