Voice Tops Music
for Soothing Sick Child
SAN DIEGO (Reuters Health) - The comforting sound of a mother's
voice is sweeter than music to the ears of very sick youngsters,
In a study reported here Sunday, hospitalized children requiring
mechanical ventilation to breathe were calmer after hearing a
recording of their mother's voice combined with soothing music
than when they heard either music alone or a blank tape.
``I think it has to do with the connection of the children to
their mothers--their primary comfort person,'' study author Beverly
Shirk, a pediatric nurse at Penn State Children's Hospital in
Hershey, Pennsylvania, told Reuters Health. ``Music can have a
lot of therapeutic effects on us. But adding the comfort person
just seems to really connect with these kids.''
Though not proven, such simple comfort could confer a big medical
benefit to these patients, perhaps reducing the need for high
levels of sedating medication, which can cause side effects and
prolong hospital stays, Shirk said. Sedation is given to keep
the children calm and prevent them from pulling out their breathing
In a paper presented at a meeting of the Society of Critical
Care Medicine, Shirk and colleagues studied 29 children between
the ages of 3 months and 8 years, mostly toddlers, who had pneumonia
or other critical illnesses.
On six separate occasions when the children's medication was
wearing off, the researchers played one of three cassette tapes
for 20 minutes each. One tape carried soothing music, one contained
the music along with the voice of the child's primary caregiver--usually
the mother, but sometimes the father--singing or reading a book
or poem, and the third tape was blank. Each tape was played twice
during the study period.
In the hour after each session, the researchers recorded how
often the children showed signs of agitation such as coughing
or fidgeting. Though huge differences were not observed, only
when the mother's voice was combined with the music did the children's
agitation scores stay at or below the baseline measurement. When
the other tapes were played, the agitation scores sometimes fluctuated
above baseline, as would be expected as the medication wore off.
``The children were most sedate when we used the therapeutic
music combined with the mother's voice,'' Shirk said.
And while the combination didn't actually translate into the
children needing less medication in this small study, Shirk said
she hopes bigger studies with perhaps longer treatment sessions
will help determine whether this benefit exists.
In the meantime, it's worth a try for healthcare providers to
first ask parents to try to calm these young patients before additional
doses of sedation are administered, Shirk said. Doing so could
possibly delay the next dose or reduce the amount that must be
given, she said.
``All sedatives have side effects and the longer the illness
lingers, the longer it may take to forgo the side effects,'' she
said. Such side effects include poor digestion, dependence upon
the medications and a delayed recovery to normal alertness and
functioning, she noted.
Reference Source 89