View Full Version : Sound of a ventilator

B.D. Eyeslie
03-28-2015, 12:32 AM
Hi all, I could use a little medical expertise here. I am trying to describe a scene in a hospital in which a patient is on a ventilator. Here is my question: What does a ventilator sound like? I can imagine a slight whooshing sound as the machine breaths for the patient, but I don't really know.
As always, any help is greatly appreciated.

Drachen Jager
03-28-2015, 12:44 AM
There are tons of product-demo videos on Youtube.

Mostly they seem to sound like quiet hairdryers, but when most people THINK about what a ventilator sounds like, they probably associate the Darth Vaderish sounds most commonly used on TV shows and movies (which, judging from the videos of the real thing in action are probably inaccurate).

B.D. Eyeslie
03-28-2015, 01:00 AM
Thanks so much, DJ. I'll check out YouTube. Don't know why I didn't think of that before...oh yea, it's Friday and my brain is not working.

Deb Kinnard
03-28-2015, 07:21 PM
It's just a rhythmic hissing sound that raises and lowers in loudness as the machine cycles. Don't forget that normally there's oxygen at some concentration being added to the gas mix, so there'll be that sound as well, making a background to the rhythmic noises.

03-29-2015, 07:03 AM
My knowledge is secondhand. I was in a bad car accident in Nov. 2000 and was on a ventilator for several days. This is how my parents describe the sound:

A "whoosh" is a good way to describe the sound. Because it's a hospital, you can add in lots of other hospital sounds: beeping of heart monitors, or the slight turning noise of the moving parts of the feeding tube system. Also, in the intensive care unit, the beds are pretty close together (it was a pretty open design to facilitate patient care) so you will be able to hear beeping noises associated with the people in nearby beds.

When I first came to the hospital and was first put on the ventilator, it was rhythmic: whoosh, pause, whoosh, pause. The machine was forcing me to breath in a specific rhythm. As time passed, they turned down the machine to try and let my lungs do the work instead of the machine. The ventilator would kick in if I didn't breath on my own after x number of seconds.

My parents said this was particularly startling at night, when the unit/room was particularly quiet, or anytime they just got caught up in their own thoughts. The ventilator would be doing its thing, just background noise. Then I would stop breathing, and everything would be silent for a few seconds. It was a moment of fear, caused by the absence of noise. Then the ventilator would kick in and it was back to a normal rhythm.