An inexpensive way to reduce ICU delirium: earplugs for nighttime sleep assistance

Anyone who has been a patient in a hospital at night knows that the conditions for sleep are never ideal. Doors slam, gurneys and meal-wagons are moved around and are banged against walls. Restocking teams walk through the hallways laughing and talking as often do nursing staff members. I once awoke in an ICU at 3:00am to hear an in-service training being conducted out in the open with voices at a volume suited to mid-day not past midnight.
In an ordinary hospital ward the door can be shut to this cacaphony of hospital sounds, but room doors in the ICU are typically left open making it easier for nurses to keep tabs on patients who need to be checked more frequently.

Enter the humble set of foam earplugs. Researchers conducted tests comparing patients who were equipped with earplugs with those who were not so equipped. The result was a marked increase in the quality of sleep in those with earplugs and a decrease in the appearance of deadly delirium, particularly in the first 48 hours. If your loved one is in the ICU, there’s no need to convince a doctor to write an order for this ordinary and humble tool. Bring them in yourself and make sure your patient uses them at night. Also, make certain that staff is informed that ear plugs are in use lest staff conclude erroneously that the patient is non-responsive to verbal requests! ¬†