16 Quick Hitting NICU Music Therapy Facts That Will Blow Your Mind

If we've said it once, we've said it a thousand times: what separates music therapy from music used therapeutically is the research-based support of our interventions. Some of the most interesting research in our field involves music therapy used with premature infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Here's 16 research findings about music therapy in the NICU, complete with links to the studies!

Oxygen Saturation

  • “Infants hearing music had significantly fewer occurrences of Oximeter alarms during auditory stimuli than did those listening to the mothers' voice.” Tweet This

Standley, J. M., & Moore, R. (1995). Therapeutic effects of music and mother’s voice on premature infants. Pediatric Nursing, 21 (6), 509-512,
574.

http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1996-28041-001

  • Music (listening) had noticeably positive effects on oxygen saturation levels, heart rate, and respiratory rate.” Tweet This

Cassidy, J.W., & Standley, J. M. (1995). The effect of music listening on physiological responses of premature infants in the NICU. Journal of Music Therapy, 32 (4), 208-227.

http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1996-28041-001

  • Listening to recorded music increased oxygen saturation levels in premature infants. Tweet This

Moore, R., Gladstone, I., & Standley, J. M. (1994). Effects of music, maternal voice, intrauterine sounds, and white noise on the oxygen saturation levels of premature infants. Paper presented at: Meeting of the National Association for Music Therapy, Inc; November 1994; Orlando, FL.

  • “…Results showed that premature infants receiving music therapy with endotracheal suctioning had a significantly higher SPO(2); than
    that when not receiving music therapy (p <.01), and the level of oxygen saturation returned to the baseline level faster than when they did not
    receive music therapy (p <.01).”

Chou, L. L., Wang, R. H., Chen, S. J., Pai, L. (2003). Effects of music therapy on oxygen saturation in premature infants receiving endotracheal
suctioning. Journal of Nursing Research, 11 (3), 209 – 216.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14579198?dopt=Abstract

Heart Rate

  • “(Listening to live singing) lowered Ss' heart rate, increased oxygen saturation, and reduced distress behaviors” Tweet This

Coleman, J. M., Pratt, R. R., Stoaddard, R. A., Gestmann, D. R., & Abel, H. (1997). The effects of the male and female singing and speaking voices on
selected physiologial and behavioral measures of premature infants in the intensive care unit. International Journal of Arts Medicine, 5 (2),
4-11.

http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1998-10127-001

  • “Live music therapy had no significant effect on physiological and behavioral parameters during the 30-minute therapy; however, at the 30-minute interval after the therapy ended, it significantly reduced heart rate (150 ± 3.3 beats/min before therapy vs 127 ± 6.5 beats/min
    after therapy) and improved the behavioral score (3.1 ± 0.8 before therapy vs 1.3 ± 0.6 after therapy
    , p < 0.001).”

Arnon S, Shapsa A, Forman L, et al. (2006). Live music is beneficial to preterm infants in the neonatal intensive care unit environment. Birth 33 (2), 131–136.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.0730-7659.2006.00090.x/abstract;jsessionid=4B288D983597839C50BA760004348962.f01t01?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false

Behavior State

  • “Live music therapy had no significant effect on physiological and behavioral parameters during the 30-minute therapy; however, at the 30-minute interval after the therapy ended, it significantly reduced heart rate (150 ± 3.3 beats/min before therapy vs 127 ± 6.5 beats/min after therapy) and improved the behavioral score (3.1 ± 0.8 before therapy vs 1.3 ± 0.6 after therapy, p < 0.001).” "(Behavioral score) was given a numerical score as follows: 1, deep sleep; 2, light sleep; 3, drowsy; 4, quiet awake or alert; 5, actively awake and aroused; 6, highly aroused, upset, or crying; and 7, prolonged respiratory pause > 8 seconds.

Arnon S, Shapsa A, Forman L, et al. (2006). Live music is beneficial to preterm infants in the neonatal intensive care unit environment. Birth, 33 (2):131–136.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.0730-7659.2006.00090.x/abstract;jsessionid=4B288D983597839C50BA760004348962.f01t01?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false

  • Music reinforced non-nutritive sucking resulted in “lower during-heelstick behavior state means, less time in undesirable behavior states, lower during- and post-heelstick stress level means, and smaller behavior state and stress level differences between intervals.” Tweet This

Whipple J. (2008). The effect of music-reinforced nonnutritive sucking on state of preterm, low birth weight infants experiencing heel stick. Journal Music Therapy 46 (3), 227–272.

http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2008-16464-001

  • “Music stimulation…significantly reduced the daily group mean of stress behaviors for the experimental group.” Tweet This

Caine J. (1991). The effects of music on the selected stress behaviors, weight, caloric and formula intake, and length of hospital stay of premature and
low birth weight neonates in a newborn intensive care unit. Journal Music Therapy 28 (4), 180–192.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10160836

Length of Stay

  • “Music stimulation…significantly reduced length of the NBICU and total hospital stays.” Tweet This

Caine J. (1991). The effects of music on the selected stress behaviors, weight, caloric and formula intake, and length of hospital stay of premature and
low birth weight neonates in a newborn intensive care unit. Journal Music Therapy 28 (4), 180–192.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10160836

  • “Experimental (group) left the NICU 3 days earlier” (Experimental group exposed to live singing” Tweet This

Coleman, J. M., Pratt, R. R., Stoaddard, R. A., Gestmann, D. R., & Abel, H. (1997). The effects of the male and female singing and speaking voices on
selected physiologial and behavioral measures of premature infants in the intensive care unit. International Journal of Arts Medicine, 5 (2),
4-11.

http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1998-10127-001

  • “(Infants) born very early (24–28 gestational weeks) were discharged sooner than non-music infants in that age range.” Tweet This

Standley J., Swedberg O. (2010). NICU music therapy: post hoc analysis of an early intervention clinical program. Arts Psychotherapy 38 (1) 36–40.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0197455610001280

Feeding

  • Results showed that the intervention significantly increased feeding rates. Music functioned as reinforcement and the sucking
    behavior transferred from a nonnutritive to a nutritive event.”

Standley J. M. (2003). The effect of music-reinforced non-nutritive sucking on feeding rate of premature infants. Journal Pediatric Nursing 18 (3)169–173.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0882596303000332

  • “At 34 weeks, PAL trials significantly shortened gavage feeding length, and three trials were significantly better than one
    trial.”
     Tweet This

Standley J, Cassidy J, Grant R, et al. (2010). The effect of music reinforcement for non-nutritive sucking on nipple feeding of premature infants. Pediatric Nursing 36 (3) 138–145.

http://intraspec.ca/article36138145.pdf

Cost Effectiveness

  • With the use of PAL® the number of days a preterm infant will stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is reduced by an average of five days, saving an average of $10,000 per infant.

http://www.research.fsu.edu/pal/about.html

  • “Annual Revenue for a 1/2 Time NICU-MT at Florida Hospital (40 Bed, Level III NICU) based on current reimbursement rates = $24,295" Tweet This

Robertson, A., Standley J.Premature Infants: Research Update and Evidence-Based Practice. Presented at: National Institute for Infant and Child Medical Music Therapy: Clinical Fieldwork at Florida Hospital; June 2009; Orlando, FL.

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Andrew Littlefield MM, MT-BC

The George Center , 12060 Etris Road, Roswell, GA, 30075