The architectural design of a classroom includes room size, room shape, and surface treatments. Suitable acoustical design in classrooms and other learning spaces enhances speech clarity and limits background noise to protect speech quality for both students and teachers. Poor acoustical design can result in excessive noise that is disruptive to the learning process and may negatively affect speech perception, student behavior, and educational outcomes (Klatte, Hellbrück, Seidel, & Leistner, 2010; Klatte, Lachmann, & Meis, 2010; Shield & Dockrell, 2008). Poor acoustics can affect all students, not just those with hearing loss.
Improving acoustics in classrooms used by children with hearing problems is important. There are also benefits for individuals in the classroom with typical hearing. Examples include the following individuals:
- Children younger than 15 years (Nelson, Sacks, & Hinckley, 2009; Seep, Glosemeyer, Hulce, Linn, & Aytar, 2000; Smaldino, Crandell, Kreisman, John, & Kreisman, 2008)
- Students with learning disabilities, developmental delays, speech and/or language disorders, auditory processing difficulties, and attention deficits, and those learning English as a second language (Seep et al., 2000; Smaldino et al., 2008)
On a related note, teachers who can use a natural teaching voice free from vocal strain may also benefit from improved classroom acoustics (Kristiansen et al., 2014).
Classroom noise includes any auditory disturbance that interferes with what a listener wants and/or needs to hear, including
- noise from outside the building (e.g., highway traffic, playground noise, jets) heard through the building structure;
- noise from within the building (e.g., children walking and talking in the halls, class bells, noise from other classrooms); and
- noise from within the classroom (e.g., children’s voices, mechanical noise from the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning [HVAC] system, technology used in the classroom).