The Language and Speech Technologies and Applications Centre (TALP UPC), in collaboration with the Hospital Sant Joan de Déu (HSJD), has taken part in a study of noise generated in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU). Some noises could affect the neural development of premature infants, depending on their intensity and probably also on the type of sound. In NICUs, there are three main kinds of noises: voices and other vocalizations (for example crying); alarms on monitoring equipment, and other sounds such as those produced by oxygenation, ventilation or the telephone. Some of these noises could increase newborns’ stress and have a negative impact on their rest and sleep. Other noises, such as parents’ voices, could have the opposite effect.
In the study, audio signals were recorded in the NICU at the HSJD. They were then classified and processed using automatic learning techniques to develop systems for detecting specific sounds, such as alarms and vocalizations. The results were correlated with physiological variables to observe the effects of sounds on the registered newborns. The data should contribute to the design of spaces, equipment and protocols that significantly reduce the exposure of newborns to damaging sounds.