Sonicu Monitors Noise in the NICU

Thursday, February 14, 2008 19:41
Posted in category Preemies
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This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris Smith of Sonicu about his new sound monitoring system which helps NICUs monitor noise level, and uses a warning light system to tell family and staff in the NICU if they are being too loud. Below is my email interview with Chris. If you’d like to hear more from Chris directly, you can click here to listen to a podcast interview about Sonicu.

In terms parents can understand, what is Sonicu?

Sonicu is a sound monitoring, data collection, archiving, trending and behavior modification system. It measures and controls sound levels on a wall, ceiling or crib. It measures sound in a format known as dBa and gives visual cues via a green/yellow/red light tree for all to notice when the noise environment exceeds known recommended levels. Sonicu assists in assuring compliance to noise control standards by modifying human behavior in a non-judgmental way. Sonicu provides a well documented and accurate indication of noise level and a non-arbitrary opinion when noise is too loud. Sonicu also has provisions for mimicking the Diurnal lighting cycle of the sun (via overhead dim-able lighting control) to minimize sleep disruption and get babies on a proper rest schedule.

Why should parents want their NICU to use the Sonicu system?

Multiple studies have drawn parallels between excessive NICU noise and its detrimental effects on developing preemies. Commissions have developed and published recommended sound level standards for all NICU’s to adhere to. If a NICU fails to provide an effective means of minimizing noise, they are taking a risk of doing developmental damage to the very children they are trying to help. Noise control efforts to minimize noise whenever possible should be as carefully controlled as infection control.

What was the inspiration behind your company?

Sonicu, the company and the product, came from my real life experience while visiting my son, Sean, in a NICU in Indianapolis, Indiana. It started as a lighting only control system after I saw Sean cringe when the overhead lights were flipped on to full bright. Sonicu has evolved now from its original design and implementation into a fully networked and integrated system of sound monitoring and lighting control. Both are important and both have recommended levels for optimal NICU infant care.

The name Sonicu has multiple meaning to me:

  1. Sonicu = In honor of my son, Sean. Without him there would be no product.
  2. Sonicu = Meaning sound
  3. Sonicu = Meaning Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Aside from inspiring Sonicu, how did your son’s time in the NICU impact your life?

I was fully content at my current job selling specialized heating and air-conditioning equipment. When Sean (my fourth child) was born, I gained a new perspective on what it means to have a child with disabilities and specialized needs. I most likely wouldn’t have the same perspective I now have for nurses and doctors who care for the smallest of the small children born into this world. These children need special care and I truly believe all entrusted with their care are living angels. They do amazing things for these preemies and deserve our utmost respect and admiration. Lastly, I’ve learned that even an observant parent can make a difference in the life of preemies. Sonicu has changed my opinion of many things and has even given me a new career.

Do you have any advice or wisdom to share with parents whose babies are in the NICU right now?

Pray for your children and those entrusted with their care. Pray for guidance and patience. Ask good questions. Be mentally prepared to have setbacks (it’s a roller coaster ride). Never give up – it will get better. Lastly, God willing, your little one will one day call you Mom and Dad.

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