OBJECTIVE To evaluate the noise level in adult, pediatric and neonatal intensive care units of a university hospital in the city of Santa Marta (Colombia). DESIGN A descriptive, observational, non-interventional study with follow-up over time was carried out. MATERIALS AND METHODS Continuous sampling was conducted for 20 days for each unit using a type i sound level meter, filter frequency in A weighting and Fast mode. We recorded the maximum values, the 90th percentile as background noise, and the continuous noise level. RESULTS The mean hourly levels in the adult unit varied between 57.40±1.14-63.47±2.13dBA, with a maximum between 71.55±2.32-77.22±1.94dBA, and a background noise between 53.51±1.16-60.26±2.10dBA; in the pediatric unit the mean hourly levels varied between 57.07±3.07-65.72±2.46dBA, with a maximum of 68.69±3.57-79.06±2.34dBA, and a background noise between 53.33±3.54-61.96±2.85dBA; the neonatal unit in turn presented mean hourly values between 59.54±2.41-65.33±1.77dBA, with a maximum value between 67.20±2.13-77.65±3.74dBA, and a background noise between 55.02±2.03-58.70±1.95dBA. Analysis of variance revealed a significant difference between the hourly values and between the different units, with the time of day exhibiting a greater influence. CONCLUSIONS The type of unit affects the noise levels in intensive care units, the pediatric unit showing the highest values and the adult unit the lowest values. However, the parameter exerting the greatest influence upon noise level is the time of day, with higher levels in the morning and evening, and lower levels at night and in the early morning.