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Noise - Classroom Acoustics

Quieting the Classroom, Not the Students


Updated September 22, 2009

Typical kid whispering, giggling, and laughter aside, the average classroom is loaded with noises that can be distracting for a hard of hearing student trying to learn.

Awareness of the importance of improving classroom acoustics - managing the classroom noise - is increasing as studies show that improvement results in measurable gains in learning/speech perception (student behavior may also improve).

Impact of poor acoustics

Why is is it so important to pay attention to classroom acoustics, especially for children with hearing loss?

  • The paper "Impact of hearing loss on children in typical school environments", presented at the 133rd Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, June 16-20, 1997 at the Penn State Conference Center in State College, Pennsylvania, notes that even a mild hearing loss can have a significant impact on a child's ability to understand the teacher. This point is illustrated through audio examples. One of the audio examples clarifies the combined effect of hearing loss, classroom design that does not minimize noise, and noise.
  • The AG Bell Association publishes articles on acoustics in its Volta Voices and Volta Review magazines.
  • "Improving Classroom Acoustics" is an Adobe PDF file from the Educational Audiology Association. It reports on a three-year study. The EAA also has a position statement on classroom acoustics.
More reading material
  • A search on "classroom acoustics" at the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse turns up several articles, not all of which have to do with classroom acoustics.


Many resources are available for parents and educators concerned about classroom acoustics for a hearing impaired (or hearing) child. Organizations

  • Classroomacoustics is a public discussion list that "public/private school listening and learning environments and the removal of architectural barriers to effective communications in the classroom."

Based on what I learned in doing the research for this article, it appears that even just a little improvement to the classroom acoustical environment can pay large dividends for hard of hearing students.

More Suggested Reading
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Hearing Loss
  4. Education
  5. In the Classroom
  6. Classroom Acoustics - Improving Classroom Acoustics for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

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