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.