How private is your consultation? Acoustic and audiological measures of speech privacy in the otolaryngology clinic

Philip J. Clamp, David G. Grant, David A. Zapala, David B. Hawkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The right to confidentiality is a central tenet of the doctor-patient relationship. In the United Kingdom this right to confidentiality is recognised in published GMC guidance. In USA the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) strengthened the legal requirement to protect patient information in all forms and failure to do so now constitutes a federal offence. The aims of this study are to assess the acoustic privacy of an otolaryngology outpatient consultation room. Acoustic privacy was measured using the articulation index (AI) and Bamford-Kowal-Bench (BKB) speech discrimination tests. BKB speech tests were calibrated to normal conversational volume (50 dB SPL). Both AI and BKB were calculated in four positions around the ENT clinic: within the consultation room, outside the consulting room door, in the nearest waiting area chair and in the farthest waiting area chair. Tests were undertaken with the clinic room door closed and open to assess the effect on privacy. With the clinic room door closed, mean BKB scores in nearest and farthest waiting area chairs were 51 and 41% respectively. AI scores in the waiting area chairs were 0.03 and 0.02. With the clinic room door open, privacy was lost in both AI and BKB testing, with almost 100% of word discernable at normal talking levels. The results of this study highlight the poor level of speech privacy within a standard ENT outpatient department. AI is a poor predictor or privacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-146
Number of pages4
JournalEuropean Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Acoustics
  • Architecture
  • Audiometry, speech
  • Confidentiality
  • Otolaryngology
  • Outpatients
  • Privacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


Dive into the research topics of 'How private is your consultation? Acoustic and audiological measures of speech privacy in the otolaryngology clinic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this