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You are here: McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind > Publications > Improving the efficacy of auditory alarms in medical devices by exploring the effect of amplitude envelope on learning and retention

Jessica Gillard and Michael Schutz (2012)

Improving the efficacy of auditory alarms in medical devices by exploring the effect of amplitude envelope on learning and retention

Proceedings of the International Conference on Auditory Display:240-241.

Despite strong interest in designing auditory alarms in medical devices, learning and retention of these alarms remains problematic. Based on our previous work exploring learning and retention of associations between sounds and objects, we suspect that some of the problems might in fact stem from the types of sounds used in medical auditory alarms. Several of our previous studies demonstrate improvements in memory associations when using sounds with “percussive” (i.e. decaying) envelops vs. those with “flat” (i.e. artificial sounding) envelopes – the standard structure generally used in many current alarms. Here, we attempt to extend our previous findings on the effects of temporal structure on the learning and memory. Unfortunately, we did not find evidence of any such benefit in the current study. However, several interesting patterns are emerging with respect to “confusions” – the times when one alarm was confused with another. We believe this paradigm and way of thinking about alarms (i.e. attention to temporal structure) could provide insight on ways to improve auditory alarms, thereby prevent injuries and saving lives in hospitals. We welcome the chance to gather feedback on our approaches and thoughts as to why our current attempts (which we believe are based on a solid theoretical basis) have not yet led to our hoped-for improvements.

amplitude envelope, auditory system, learning