The NICU environment can be stressful to its little patients. Premature
and low birth weight infants respond to their new surroundings with increased
levels of agitation, which can cause fluctuations in both the heart rate
and blood pressure.
Hearing is possible as early as 24 weeks of gestation. Loud noises and
abrupt peaks in sound levels from sources such as ventilators, monitor
alarms, and even cabinet doors can affect an infant’s blood oxygen
levels, impair cerebral blood flow, and alter the sleep-wake cycles which
are necessary for development, maturation and weight gain.
High-end speakers are at the bedside of each NICU patient at MRMC. Low-end
speakers cannot deliver a full sound without distortions at the low volume.
A Rotel amplifier is connected to a computer with pre-programmed classical
and instrumental jazz music, which imitates the maternal heartbeat of
72 to 80 beats per minute. By default, music starts playing at 40 decibels
and the volume can be increased up to 50 decibels.
Exposure to music therapy has been proven to calm the infant and helps
reverse the stress response. A number of studies reveal that babies who
experience music therapy are more content, feed better, and experience
shorter length of stay in the hospital.