This document, part of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) 2000–2003 Focused Initiatives on School-Based Programs and Services, was a collaborative effort of ASHA Special Interest Division 16, School-Based Issues, and the Educational Audiology Association (EAA). Committee members included Sally Disney, Nena Germany-Greer, and co-chairs Erin Dyer Olson and DeAnne Wellman Owre representing ASHA Division 16; and Gail Gegg-Rosenberg representing the EAA. Kathleen Whitmire, ASHA's director of school services in speech-language pathology, served as project coordinator. The monitoring vice president was Alex Johnson, 2000–2002 vice president for professional practice in speech-language pathology. The technical report was approved by ASHA's Executive Board in November 2002.
In 1966, the ASHA Housing Subcommittee on Speech and Hearing Services in the Schools wrote the original document, Recommendations for Housing of Speech Services in the Schools ( ASHA, 1967). This two-page document provided working guidelines for speech-language pathologists and audiologists in the schools, including workplace and equipment needs for these professionals.
An informal study by the 2000 ASHA Legislative Council Ad Hoc Schools Committee indicated that, with the implementation of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 ( IDEA '97) and the increased importance of adequate working conditions and facilities in schools for SLPs and audiologists, an updated document addressing these areas was needed.
This current document revises the previous ASHA guidelines in accordance with legal and technological changes. The information presented, including extensive appendices, will be a useful resource for speech-language pathologists, audiologists, school administrators, school board members, architects, building contractors, and others.
This document is intended to serve as a reference for speech-language pathologists, audiologists, parents, teachers, administrators, and school boards. It contains minimum requirements for creating optimal learning and assessment environments for students. It is designed to be a substantiating reference for use when building a new school, redesigning an existing structure, and/or advocating for improvement of facility work conditions.
To create an optimal environment for speech-language pathologists to perform the many roles and responsibilities of their workload, IDEA '97, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ( ADA, 1990), and individual state and local rules and regulations require that facilities where services are provided must accommodate the special needs of children with disabilities. It is important for speech-language pathologists working in the schools to be aware of these standards and to advocate for appropriate facilities and equipment to meet the needs of students in schools where services are provided.
The School Facilities technical report lists suggestions that should be considered when determining appropriate facility needs. The speech-language pathology room is discussed in relationship to the workload responsibility of the speech-language pathologist, the identified needs of the students, and professional standards and regulations. IDEA '97 mandates the availability of specialized equipment and teaching materials required to meet the goals and objectives of students' individualized education programs (IEPs). The report discusses the need for specific equipment and materials, including current evaluation and instructional materials and equipment, portable audiometers, and computer and technology support, as well as the need for appropriate storage and maintenance.
Confidentiality is required by the ASHA Code of Ethics, individual state licensure boards, state boards of education, and IDEA '97. Consequently, the speech-language pathologist should be furnished with private facilities with appropriate access to a telephone and secure storage of records.
SLPs can use the Program Environmental Observation Checklist in Appendix C of the full document to evaluate their own environment and available equipment and furniture. It is the intent of this document to give support and background information that will help school districts comply with regulations and meet the needs of the students they serve.
Guidelines and requirements for classroom construction and applicable facilities' requirements are a state, not federal, issue. Each state's requirements regarding standardized classroom size, materials, construction requirements, lighting, and the like are available from that state's department of education, and are typically accessible at its Web site.
Prevalent in research design principles for classrooms and schools are themes of accessibility to the outdoors, clustering around a common area, adaptive and flexible uses of space, and aesthetically pleasing colors, textures, and patterns. The classroom's physical makeup for all students, teachers, other service providers, and adults should include appropriate and comfortable visual, auditory, and physical access to information for learning. The responsibility of communication disorders professionals for knowledge and understanding in this area is outlined in the ASHA Guidelines for the Roles and Responsibilities of the School-Based Speech-Language Pathologist ( ASHA, 2000b). This document suggests that involvement in leadership initiatives, advocacy, and community and professional partnerships is becoming increasingly important.
One common, significant problem noted by audiologists and speech-language pathologists is the lack of guidelines and information regarding acoustical requirements for classrooms. Inferior acoustics are a widespread problem of classrooms in the United States (Weaver-Dunne, 2000). Many architects are not trained in architectural acoustics, and administrators and school board members do not possess the knowledge necessary to address adequate architectural acoustics in classrooms ( Classroom Acoustics, 2001). New standards for acoustical requirements for the classroom have been under development since section 502 of the Rehabilitation Act ( 1973) established the Access Board, an independent federal agency, to promote accessibility for individuals with disabilities. Studies conducted over the last 25 years estimated that 75% of the school day is spent engaged in listening activities, yet substantial research linking poor academic performance and noisy academic environments has largely been ignored ( Hubble-Dahlquist, 1998).
An estimated 8–10% of the overall student population, irrespective of age, may have significant learning problems affected by poor acoustical environments ( Coalition for Classroom Acoustics, 1998). It is both appropriate and important for audiologists and speech-language pathologists to provide information and recommendations for improving classroom acoustics and other learning spaces by modifying the physical properties of the classroom and using other postconstruction opportunities for improving sound-field equalization. Targeting excessive noise and reverberation, and inadequate learning spaces may require strategies for altering the physical characteristics of rooms, and purchasing sound equalization systems for rooms—a leap from traditional responsibilities of the audiologist and/or speech-language pathologist but a successful endeavor in improving communication opportunities in the public-school setting. This document is designed to address the acoustic requirements for classrooms.
ASHA's hearing screening guidelines specify allowable ambient noise levels and also provide additional qualifying information about the expectations for a hearing screening site. This technical report personalizes this information for school sites. Typical features of the screening site are described with respect to acoustical conditions and other requirements to conduct pure tone screenings in a manner that would produce accurate, reliable results.
This document's extensive appendices contain a variety of information that will be of great use to speech-language pathologists, audiologists and school administrators. Appendix A contains definitions of audiologic terms. Appendix B, Advocating for Appropriate Facilities, provides ideas for beginning the advocacy process for improving facilities and suggests ideas for presentations, funding sources, and specific strategies. A Program Environment Observation Checklist, in Appendix C, addresses the speech-language pathology room, equipment, and furniture. Appendix D, the Checklist for Classroom Accommodations for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists Serving Students with Communication Issues, also addresses accessibility issues. A teacher survey for measuring sound field usefulness in the classroom is found in Appendix E. In Appendix F, Sound Field Amplification is a summary of efficacy studies that deal with improvements in academic achievement, speech recognition skills, students' attending and learning behaviors, as well as other skills. Appendix G contains acoustical standards. Appendix H discusses frequently asked questions about classroom acoustics. The ASHA Code of Ethics is contained in Appendix I. Appendix J lists supportive information available from ASHA.
Adequate working conditions and facilities in schools for speech-language pathologists and audiologists have always been acknowledged as essential for creating an optimal assessment and/or learning environment for the child, but the quality of work settings and equipment varies widely in schools around the country. Implementation of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 ( IDEA '97) increased school administrators' awareness of the importance of providing adequate learning environments for children with disabilities, including those with speech-language-hearing disorders. In addition, the Americans With Disabilities Act ( ADA, 1990) required that facilities where services are provided—including both therapy rooms and classrooms—accommodate the special needs of the children in attendance. In some cases, this resulted in greatly improved facilities. In many other instances, however, awareness was not translated into action. The reasons for this lack of action include overpopulation of some schools, which has contributed to competition for workspace. Many older schools were not designed with dedicated rooms or adequate accommodations within the classroom and have been difficult to convert structurally. Additionally, fiscal constraints have prevented improvements in school working conditions ( Neidecker & Blosser, 2001). Whatever the reason, apathy is common among school administrators and school boards regarding inadequate assessment/intervention environments and equipment for speech-language and hearing services.
According to the Ohio study, Availability of Therapists to Work in Ohio Schools ( Legislative Office of Education Oversight, 1999), speech-language pathologists listed lack of designated space to provide treatment as a definite drawback to working in the school setting. This was corroborated in the ASHA 2000 Schools Survey ( ASHA, 2000a): 35.2% of the 2,133 speech-language pathologist respondents listed “inadequate work space and facilities” as one of the school SLP's greatest challenges. Results of the 2001 ASHA Survey on Critical Issues and Member Needs, a Web-based survey of ASHA members ( ASHA, 2001a) indicated that lack of adequate workspace/environment and of equipment were areas of significant concern in the school setting.
In 1966, the ASHA Housing Subcommittee on Speech and Hearing Services in the Schools wrote the document Recommendations for Housing of Speech Services in the Schools ( ASHA, 1967). The current document not only updates the original, but also expands the scope of those recommendations to comply with IDEA '97. This document focuses on various learning environments, including the speech-language pathology retreatment room, hearing screening room, and the regular education classroom.
This document is intended as a reference for speech-language pathologists, audiologists, parents, teachers, administrators, school boards, architects, and building contractors. It contains minimum requirements for creating optimal learning and assessment environments for students and is designed to be a substantiating reference for use when building a new school, redesigning an already existing structure, and/or advocating for improvement of facility work conditions. The ultimate goal of this document is to be a reference guide for providing a work setting, assessment, and learning environment that will contribute to the overall success of students.
Speech-language pathologists must have appropriate facilities to meet program goals and student needs. Service areas used for special education classrooms must meet the same standards as regular education classrooms. IDEA '97 and ADA require that facilities where services are provided accommodate the special needs of the children in attendance. IDEA '97 states that “any construction of new facilities or alteration of existing facilities…must comply with the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities” (§ 300.756). Also, each state has rules and regulations that address facilities for personnel serving students with disabilities. Some local school districts and professional organizations have developed recommendations for the physical facilities and equipment necessary to operate programs effectively. It is important for speech-language pathologists working in the schools to be aware of these local and state requirements and/or recommendations so that they can advocate for appropriate facilities.
These suggestions should be considered when determining appropriate facility needs:
The space provided for speech-language pathology services in a regular school building should be located in the instructional area of the building that houses children of comparable age. It should be located in an area that ensures privacy, confidentiality, and sensitivity to student needs. The room should be used by only one professional at a time and should be designated for the exclusive use of the speech-language pathologist when he or she is scheduled to be in the building. Individual state laws and regulations can dictate where services can be provided in religious private schools; some states allow speech and language services in religious schools to be provided in neutral rooms with no religious icons.
When services are provided outside the classroom setting, the area should be reasonably exclusive and large enough to provide the full range of evaluation and instructional activities needed to provide services to a caseload. These services may include evaluation and testing of individual students, pull-out treatment for individuals and/or groups, team meetings, and confidential conferences with teachers and parents, as well as activities to prepare for treatment, prepare and maintain assistive technology support, and provide case management services.
Each speech-language area should be readily accessible to nonambulatory students and should accommodate the special needs of students with disabilities as mandated by the ADA. This includes students who are physically challenged, and students with low vision or neurological problems.
The facilities should be adequately heated and cooled, lighted and ventilated, and provided with sufficient electrical outlets and computer accessibility.
Speech-language services should be provided in an environment that ensures student safety and welfare; complies with applicable building and safety codes; and includes universal precautions, infection control, risk management, and emergency preparedness ( ASHA, 2002a).
Each speech-language area should be large enough to accommodate the use and storage of special equipment and teaching materials.
There should be an adequate number of age-appropriate desks/tables and chairs to meet the physical needs of students and parents, and for preschool, furniture and equipment to provide a developmentally appropriate curriculum.
The facility should be equipped with instructional aids (e.g., mirror, chalkboard/erase board, and bulletin board) that meet the needs of the students' individualized education programs (IEPs) and adequate office equipment and supplies, including a telephone. Speech-language pathologists should be provided with materials, technology devices, Internet access, and computer and technology support, as well as software for providing, managing, and monitoring services.
Each speech-language pathologist should have available current evaluation and instructional materials and equipment appropriate for the age, developmental ability, and disability condition of each student. These should include a variety of multimedia learning/curriculum materials, tests, and equipment, readily available for use to meet the individual interests and learning abilities of the students receiving services.
The acoustic level of the speech-language pathologist's area should meet the standard criteria for noise and reverberation proposed by the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) through the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). (See Section IV for more details.)
School districts should make available one portable individual audiometer for the speech-language pathologist to use for screening; this should be checked and calibrated annually in accordance with minimum audiologic standards. Best practice would include impedance screening by a speech-language pathologist trained by an audiologist ( ASHA, 1996). Also, one portable tape recorder and a supply of tapes; one portable auditory training unit, computer, and printer; one hearing aid battery tester; and assistive technology devices should be available. There should be adequate maintenance and prompt repair of all special equipment utilized for children with disabilities.
The ASHA Code of Ethics (see Appendix I), individual state licensure boards, and state boards of education mandate that speech-language pathologists and audiologists maintain confidentiality of student/client information. Furthermore, Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act ( FERPA, 1974) regulations have very specific recordkeeping requirements for educational agencies and institutions.
IDEA '97 includes strong language protecting the confidentiality of student records:
Federal Regulation 34CFR § 300.572, Safeguards, states that:
“Each participating agency shall protect the confidentiality of personally identifiable information at collection, storage, disclosure, and destruction stages.”
Federal Regulation 34CFR § 300.126, Confidentiality of Personally Identifiable Information, states that:
“Each State must have on file in detail the policies and procedures that the State has undertaken to ensure protection of the confidentiality of any personally identifiable information collected, used, or maintained under Part B of the Act.” ( IDEA '97)
It is important that each speech-language pathologist have a facility that permits privacy suitable for private consultation, including a telephone, in an area where scheduling, parent contacts, and confidential conversations regarding students can be completed relatively free from distractions. The area should be for the exclusive use of the speech-language pathologist when he or she is scheduled to be in the building. Space should be provided for record storage, including a locking filing cabinet with a key.
Guidelines and requirements for classroom construction and applicable facilities requirements are a state issue, not a federal issue. In some states, the guidelines are uniform; however, many states utilize the guidelines as a basic blueprint, with construction decisions made by each school sector or district and submitted for approval to the state's department of education (B. Hayes, personal communication, September 2001). A few states do not have specific facilities requirements and work on an individual basis within each district. Nevertheless, each state's requirements regarding standardized classroom size, materials, construction requirements, lighting, and the like are found in information regarding capital construction and/or building requirements available from that state's department of education. The responsibility of the communication disorders professionals for knowledge and understanding in this area is suggested in the ASHA literature. In fact, ASHA's Guidelines for the Roles and Responsibilities of the School-Based Speech-Language Pathologist ( ASHA, 2002b) and Guidelines for Audiology Service Provision in and for Schools ( ASHA, 2002c) suggest that involvement in leadership initiatives, advocacy, and community and professional partnerships is becoming increasingly important. A most common and significant problem, and one in which audiologists and speech-language pathologists have vested interest, is the lack of guidelines and information regarding acoustical requirements for classrooms. Inferior acoustics and lack of information regarding acoustics are a widespread problem for classrooms in the United States (Weaver-Dunne, 2000). Currently, the United States is engaged in the single largest school construction phase in its history, yet many architects are not trained in architectural acoustics, and administrators and school board members also do not possess the knowledge necessary to address adequate architectural acoustics in classrooms ( Crandall & Smaldino, 2001).
New standards for acoustical requirements for the classroom have been a long time in development. Through the Rehabilitation Act ( 1973), section 502, the Access Board, an independent federal agency, was established to promote accessibility for individuals with disabilities. Based on the ADA ( 1990), the Access Board has developed architectural design accessibility guidelines that have set a precedent. Noisy classrooms present architectural barriers to children and adults in much the same way as physical obstacles prohibit access by the physically challenged. Widespread problems with inferior classroom acoustics may in part be due to the fact that auditory information and the processing of auditory information are invisible. Studies conducted over the last 25 years estimated that 75% of the school day is spent engaged in listening activities, yet substantial research linking poor academic performance and noisy academic environments has largely been ignored ( Hubble-Dahlquist, 1998). Because audiologists and speech-language pathologists possess the knowledge and skills needed to understand and apply acoustical information relative to communication opportunities and hearing/communication skills, it is both appropriate and important for them to provide information and recommendations toward correcting and improving classroom acoustics.
It is easy to conclude that acoustic support is needed when students present with hearing loss; generally, the need for specialized devices is considered an acceptable expense for those students. Unrecognized by the standard hearing screening testing procedures, however, are the children who pass the standard hearing sensitivity test and yet present with slight hearing loss and/or auditory processing problems. In addition, many children develop transient middle ear infections that result in conductive hearing loss before, during, and after the infectious period of the—often multiple—episode(s). Research has estimated that as many as 15% of primary grade students may fail puretone screenings at 15 dB and/or may fail an immittance screening on any given day as a result of intermittent transient middle ear infections.
A student must receive and process auditory signals to perform well—inadequate acoustical information often results in poor academic performance and poor social/self-esteem skills, thereby lowering the potential for successful academic careers and life skills. Because of poor acoustics in classrooms, children may develop self-confidence issues as they see others understanding and responding to information to which they cannot respond. Poor self-esteem may affect students' cognitive potentials and perhaps lead toward concomitant behavior and/or management issues ( Coalition for Classroom Acoustics, 1998). ASHA's Position Statement and Guidelines on Acoustics in the Educational Settings ( ASHA, 1995) addressed the increasing prevalence of hearing loss in children and young adults, 2additionally stating that children with mild hearing loss were more at risk for psychosocial problems and poor academic success than their normal hearing peers. In addition to those children identified with hearing loss and perceptual difficulties, there exists a group of at-risk children for whom good acoustic environments are essential. According to the Coalition for Classroom Acoustics, this at-risk group includes children younger than age 13 (immature neurology), children with articulation disorders, and children with language-learning disorders, as well as children with learning disabilities, and children who are non-native English speakers. In addition to the identified groups, 8–10% of the overall student population, irrespective of age, may have significant learning problems affected by poor acoustical environments ( Coalition for Classroom Acoustics, 1998).
Sound and noise control in the classroom and other learning environments is both a science and an art. When renovations or new construction are being planned, the importance of good classroom acoustics and the potential negative effects of poor acoustics on speech perception and learning need to be considered. In these instances, consultation with an audiologist and an expert in acoustical design should be encouraged. For more specific information on specific acoustical modifications, consult comprehensive resources such as ANSI ( 2002); ASHA ( 1995); Crandell and Smaldino ( 2000, 2001), Florida Department of Education ( 1995a), and Sieben, Gold, Sieben, and Ermann ( 2000).
In addition to the modifications and accommodations made in the classroom and school environment, the speech-language pathologist and audiologist can provide assistance by stimulating interest in developing a school-wide plan to reduce noise and reverberation ( Florida Department of Education, 1995a, p. 51). This strategy would involve students, teachers, administrators, support staff, and perhaps even parents, in identifying noise sources that interfere with learning and listening and then developing a plan to decrease noise.
Audiologists have the knowledge and skills to measure classroom noise and reverberation levels, given the appropriate tools. A systematic approach to measuring classroom acoustics is detailed in Crandell and Smaldino ( 2001). This type of evaluative data may be requested by a student study team and/or an IEP team if there are concerns about a particular student with hearing loss or other auditory learning problems. Ultimately, the findings could result in specific modifications or accommodations being included in the student's IEP or 504 plan.
Although there are no requirements for schools to adopt a universal standard for acoustics in classrooms and other learning environments, ASHA ( 1995) developed physical classroom acoustic standards as follows:
Classroom reverberation time (RT) should not exceed 0.4 seconds.
Signal-to-noise ratios (S/N) should be no lower than +15 dB.
Ambient noise in an empty classroom (including heating, ventilating, air conditioning, other noises consistently present, and outside noises) should be no louder than 30–35 dBA.
In response to the Access Board's request for information recording classroom acoustics, the Acoustics Society of America formed a task force followed by the ANSI S12 Working Group to study the need for and develop a standard for acoustics in classrooms and other learning environments. In June 2002, ANSI approved the standard drafted by this group as ANSI Standard S12.60-2002, Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements and Guidelines for Schools ( ANSI, 2002).
In addition to modifying the physical properties of the classroom, other postconstruction opportunities for improving sound-field equalization should be implemented. Reducing excessive noise and reverberation may require strategies and materials for altering the physical characteristics of rooms, and/or purchasing sound equalization systems for rooms. Whatever strategies are employed, audiologists, acoustical architects, and/or acoustical experts should be utilized in order to provide a successful listening environment.
Acoustical treatments and modifications in the following areas should be considered in efforts to obtain optimal acoustical environments for all students and the professionals who serve them. Many of these recommendations can be achieved by working with the classroom teacher, the school principal, the custodian, or the district's facilities department.
A school's location in the community contributes to the number and type of external noise sources. Some suggestions for reducing external building noise that may intrude into the classroom environment include using exterior barriers, landscaping, and carpeting to deflect or absorb unwanted exterior sounds. External classroom and building walls should be free of cracks, have regular maintenance, and have a high sound transmission loss (STL) level in order to attenuate external noises.
Research has shown that the primary noise source in America's classrooms is the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, and unfortunately the noise level generated by HVAC systems is not regulated ( Anderson, Smaldino, & Crandell, 2000). It has also been documented that high ceilings contribute to high reverberation levels in classrooms. The sound absorption coefficient for various absorptive materials for ceilings, walls, and floors is particularly important to consider when attempting to improve classroom acoustics, and in particular the reverberation level; refer to Crandell and Smaldino ( 2000) for a listing of absorption coefficients for various materials. It is important to note the critical frequencies (i.e., speech frequencies) where the materials provide the greatest and least absorption. For instance, it is well known that most room surface materials do not absorb low-frequency sounds as effectively as high-frequency sounds.
Ceilings. A ceiling height of 9–12 feet is optimal for the listening environment. It is important to install acoustical ceiling tile that has a sound absorption coefficient rating that is sufficient to achieve the desired noise and/or reverberation reduction. Banners, student work, and plants suspended from the ceiling can contribute to the reduction of noise and reverberation
Floors. Although carpeting is an excellent means to reduce noise and reverberation, concerns do exist regarding indoor air quality and allergic reactions that carpeting may generate in a classroom setting. Carpeting, particularly if it is installed over a pad, is the most efficient and effective acoustical modification for absorbing excessive reverberation of high-frequency consonant sounds and dampening noise from students and movement of classroom furniture. The thickness of the pad contributes to the overall decrease in the amount of noise and reverberation.
Windows. Windows are highly reflective surfaces, and acoustical treatment may be provided by adding draperies, acoustically treated blinds, or shades. Double-pane windows offer more protection from outside noise than traditional windows, and closed windows allow far less noise to enter the classroom from adjacent or external noise sources.
Walls and Doors. Reflective wall surfaces may be treated in a variety of ways to dampen classroom noise and reverberation. Interior wall modifications, such as acoustical panels, cork, felt, or flannel bulletin boards, are useful in reducing noise and reverberation time. A well-fitted, solid-core door with a noise lock or doorway treatment will help to lessen noise from external or adjacent sources.
Seating and Furniture Arrangement. The human body absorbs sound. When desks and tables are staggered, sound will not travel directly to hard reflective surfaces such as walls, chalkboards, and windows. Felt or rubber caps or tennis balls can be used on chair and table legs to help reduce noise in classrooms, particularly if they are uncarpeted. Also, the classroom should be arranged so that instruction occurs away from noise sources (e.g., HVAC systems, aquariums) and to accommodate the teacher's instructional style. This will help reduce noise and the distance between the teacher and the students. Open plan rooms should be avoided whenever possible, particularly for students with hearing loss or other auditory deficits.
Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Systems. Supply and return ducts for heating and cooling systems may be treated with acoustical duct lining. If the classroom has an external HVAC system, as is the case with most portable classrooms, the main instructional areas should be planned away from this area if the HVAC system is a source of noise. Noise control devices (e.g., duct silencers, adequate duct length, vibration isolators) can be used in HVAC systems to achieve desirable noise levels in classrooms. When renovation or new construction is planned, careful consideration should be given to the selection and design of the school's HVAC system ( Sieben et al., 2000).
Lighting. Some fluorescent lighting systems emit a constant noise. Regular maintenance should be employed; ballasts can become noisy and create a 60 dB 1000 Hz (or thereabouts) hum. When lighting is housed above the acoustical tile ceiling, the noise level will be lessened.
Special Purpose Areas. Classrooms for students with hearing loss should be located away from high-noise sources. Mobile bulletin boards and bookcases may be placed at angles to the walls to decrease reverberation in the classroom. In areas where younger children are handling manipulatives or playing with toys, covering the table surface with fabric will reduce noise levels. Study carrels can be lined with acoustic tiles, or rubber pads may be installed underneath equipment (e.g., computer, typewriter) to reduce noise in these areas.
Sound field amplification has become a very popular addition to America's classrooms, with the primary purpose being to enhance the signal-to-noise ratio of the listening environment. Typically the goal is to achieve uniform enhancement of the teacher's voice by approximately 8–10 dB. The benefits of sound field amplification are well substantiated by research conducted over the past two decades; a summary of benefits is located in Appendix F. Major benefits include improvement in academic achievement, speech recognition skills, listening skills, and on-task attending and learning behaviors; cost effectiveness; and reduction in teacher vocal fatigue. In addition, sound field amplification does not stigmatize students with mild degrees of hearing loss and/or auditory processing disorder.
When sound field equipment is considered, evaluated, and installed, it is very important to carefully evaluate the classroom acoustics and to follow a systematic process to determine the most appropriate solution for a given classroom. Refer to sources such as Crandell, Smaldino, and Flexer ( 1995) for a list of considerations regarding the selection of sound field classroom amplification and Crandell and Smaldino ( 2001) for a comprehensive listing of the advantages and disadvantages of both FM and infrared sound field systems.
In classrooms where the acoustics are less than optimal, classroom teachers can accommodate students by using strategies that typically have been used for students with hearing loss. As such, it is important for teachers to optimize visual communication during instructional periods with high academic content, gain students' attention prior to delivering information, use review strategies to identify key points, encourage students to practice active listening habits, and involve students in managing the noise level in the classroom.
If specific noise sources, such as noisy lighting, a noisy ventilation system, or even a noisy wall clock, are located in the classroom, contact the school principal or school plant engineer to discuss correcting the problem. FAQs About Classroom Acoustics ( EAA, 2000), provided as Appendix H, is an excellent handout that can be shared with administrators, other professionals, and parents to gain support for improvement in classroom acoustics. In addition, the working draft of the standard, Acoustics in School Classrooms and Other Learning Spaces, developed by the Classroom Acoustics Working Group, is included in Appendix G.
School-age children with even minimal hearing loss are at risk for academic, communication, and social-emotional difficulties ( Bess et al., 1998; Niskar et al., 1998; Tharpe & Bess, 1991). To ensure that an efficient, effective hearing screening program is implemented, the following factors should be considered: test environment, screening and supervisory personnel, equipment, contributions of school personnel, schedule for periodic screening, test protocol, pass/fail criteria, and follow-up procedures ( Roeser, 1995).
According to ASHA's Guidelines for Audiologic Screening ( 1996), the expected outcome is to identify children at risk for hearing loss that may adversely affect education, health, development, and communication. The procedures indicate both setting and equipment specifications. Screenings conducted in the school environment should meet the following guidelines.
Hearing screenings should be conducted in a quiet environment with minimal visual and auditory distractions.
Ambient noise levels for hearing screening environments should not exceed those listed below when measured with a sound level meter with octave band filters centered on the screening frequencies. It is important to note that these levels were derived from ANSI 1991 standards for pure tone threshold testing and have been adjusted for the 20 dB HL screening level. (Earlier documents indicated an allowable ambient noise level of 41.5 at 500 Hz, and therefore 500 Hz is included in some hearing screening programs.)
Audiometers must meet the current ANSI requirements for either limited-range or narrow-range audiometers.
Audiometers must be calibrated to current ANSI specifications at least annually.
A protocol should be established that requires a daily listening check to rule out distortion, crosstalk, and itermittancy, and to determine that no defects exist in major components.
The environment where the hearing screenings are performed is critical. To achieve positive outcomes, it is important that the hearing screening environment be well lighted; adequate in size to accommodate screening personnel, students, and equipment; well ventilated; and have adequate electrical outlets and low ambient noise levels ( Florida Department of Education, 1995a; Roeser, 1995). Advance planning may help in obtaining the best available screening site in the school environment. Support should be requested from the school administration to identify a suitable hearing screening environment. The greatest risk associated with excessive ambient noise levels is false-positive identifications. Subsequent overreferral for rescreening and/or follow-up challenges the integrity of the screening program. Increasing stimulus intensity is not an acceptable measure to offset excessive ambient noise levels. The most desirable hearing screening environment is located away from intrusive external and internal noise sources (e.g., high traffic areas, gymnasium, music room, restrooms, mechanical equipment, and HVAC equipment).
Alternatives that may be considered are sound enclosures that are similar to music practice rooms or a mobile hearing screening van. Often the mobile screening units can be obtained through grant funding; however, the school district must also consider the maintenance of the unit as a recurring expense.
Coalition for Classroom Acoustics. (1998). Coalition for Classroom Acoustics' response to Federal Access Board's request for information for classroom acoustics [online]. Available from www.nonoise.org.
Crandell, C., & Smaldino, J. (1995). Acoustical modifications within schools. In C. Crandell, J. Smaldino, & C. Flexer (Eds.), Sound-field FM amplification: Theory and practical applications (pp. 83–92). San Diego: Singular Publishing.
Crandell, C., & Smaldino, J. (2000). Room acoustics for listeners with normal-hearing and hearing impairment. In M. Valente, H. Hosford-Dunn, & R. Roeser (Eds.), Audiology: Treatment (pp. 601–623). New York: Thieme Medical Publishers.
Crandell, C., & Smaldino, J. (2001). Acoustical modifications for the classroom. In C. Crandell & J. Smaldino (Eds.), Classroom acoustics: Understanding barriers to learning. In C. Crandell & J. Smaldino (Eds.), The Volta Review (Vol. 101, Issue 5, pp. 33–46).
Hubble-Dahlquist, L. (1998). Classroom amplification: Not just for the hearing impaired anymore [online]. CSUN '98 Papers. Available from http://www.dinf.ne.jp/doc/english/Us_Eu/conf/csun_98/csun98_124.htm.
Legislative Office of Education Oversight. (1999, July). Availability of therapists to work in Ohio schools. Columbus, OH: Author. Available from www.loeostate.oh.us.
Nisker, A., Kieszak, S., Holmes, A., Esteban, E., Rubin, C., & Brody, D. (1998). Prevalence of hearing loss among children 6 to 19 years of age: The third national health and nutrition examination survey. Journal of the American Medical Association, 279(14), 1071–1075.
Roeser, R. (1995). Screening for hearing loss and middle ear disorders in the schools. In R. Roeser & M. Downs (Eds.), Auditory disorders in school children (3rd ed., pp. 76–100). New York: Thieme Medical Publishers.
Weaver-Dunne, D. (2001). New standards should help children in noisy classrooms [online]. Education World. Available from http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin158.shtml.
Additional information can be found at the following Web sites:
This is a searchable database for the 16th International Congress of Acoustics and the 135th ASA Meeting, June 1998, Seattle, WA.
The Access Board's official Response to Petition for Rulemaking on Classroom Acoustics may be found at this Web site.
Acoustical Society of America's Web site.
“Impact of Hearing Loss on Children in Typical School Environments” by P. Nelson.
“Revisiting Speech Interference in Classrooms and Considering Some Possible Solutions” by M. Picard.
“Pilot Studies of Speech Communication in Elementary School Classrooms” by C. Crandell.
The Ohio State University's Web site features preliminary research results in an article entitled “Many Classrooms Have Bad Acoustics That Inhibit Learning” (12/17/99).
Web site for the Council for Educational Facilities Planning International.
This site provides up-to-date information on regulations and guidelines on the anticipated new standards for acoustically designed classrooms. The site is maintained by specialists in noise control and acoustics and has links to other resources related to classroom acoustics.
A short article on classroom acoustics appears on this acoustical consulting firm's Web site.
“Design of Child Care Centers and Effects of Noise on Young Children” by L. Maxwell and G. Evans.
“Classroom Amplification: Not Just for the Hearing Impaired Anymore” by L. Dahlquist (California State University, Northridge, CSUN98 Conference)
The National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF) Web site on acoustics carries updates on the classroom acoustics standard and has approximately 50 links to other online and print resources.
The Web site provides links to hearing-related topics such as acoustics, audiology, ALDs, and acoustical treatments.
“Individual and Sound-Field FM Systems: Rationale, Description, and Use” by C. Flexer.
The Columbus Dispatch Web site for classroom acoustics has “Breaking the Sound Barrier: Schools Try to Ensure That Teachers Can Be Heard Over Din” (01/09/00).
This Web site contains excellent information on topics such as common acoustical problems (e.g., excess reverberation time, late reflections, inadequate loudspeaker coverage), demonstrations of reverberation, classroom speech intelligibility with demonstrations, design for speech intelligibility, miscellaneous calculators for classroom acoustics (e.g., speech intelligibility calculator, quickie reverb time calculator, critical distance calculator), loudspeaker cluster case study, and loudspeaker facts.
The official Web site for the Classroom Acoustics Coalition provides information on the nature and scope of problems caused by poor acoustics in classrooms and offers practical planning strategies and methods to avoid or correct bad acoustics in existing or planned educational facilities.
This site hosts the classroom acoustics listserve.
Absorption coefficient and noise reduction coefficient (NRC): Coefficients that specify the ability of material(s) to absorb sound wave(s).
Absorption: Pentration of the receiving surface by the sound wave(s), reducing the noise that is emitted into the environment.
Ambient noise: Noise that can be perceived in an empty classroom (heating, ventilating, air conditioning, other noises consistently present and outside noises). The level of ambient noise should be no louder than 30–35 dBA.
ANSI: The American National Standards Institute.
Classroom reverberation time: A measurement of how quickly sound decays in a room. The reverberation time should not exceed 0.4 second, and S/N rations should be no lower than +15 dB.
Diffusion: Scattering of the sound wave(s) in many directions after encountering a surface.
Discrete echoes: Reflected sound wave(s) such as those occurring in a classroom or a gym.
Flutter echoes: The ringing effect created when sound waves are bounced between two hard, flat parallel surfaces, such as two walls or a ceiling and floor.
Frequency of sound: The pitch of the sound.
Intensity of sound: The loudness of the sound.
Low-level amplification system or portable microphone system: A system that amplifies the primary sound source and distributes it through loudspeakers positioned throughout a room or setting, thereby increasing it by approximately +15 dB to provide equalization throughout the room.
Noise reduction (NR) of a surface (wall, floor, etc.) in decibels (dB): A measure of the percentage of sound received in a neighboring room from the original sound source.
Postconstruction opportunities: Strategies to improve sound-field equalization by limiting excess noise and excess reverberation. Whenever possible, acoustical architects and/or acoustical experts should be utilized in order to provide a successful listening environment.
Reflection: The “bouncing” of sound off a surface that it encounters.
Reverberation time (RT or RT ): A measurement of how quickly sound decays in a room. The length of the reverberation time depends on both surface construction and physical volume of a space: larger spaces have longer reverberating times than smaller spaces, and longer reverberation time reduces the S/N ratio.
Signal-to-noise ratio (S/N): The ratio of the amplitude of the desired signal (speech) to the amplitude of the noise in a room; this ratio provides an estimate of how easy (or difficult) it is to understand speech within the room.
Sound waves: The acoustical property of sound; waves flow in both horizontal and vertical stages.
Transmission: Passage of sound waves through an encountered surface.
An action plan is recommended as the first strategy in beginning the advocacy process for improved facilities. This plan should include a list of the groups you wish to address, funding sources, and inadequacies of the current facilities, and even a demonstration of problem areas and suggestions for possible improvements. Factual information and studies provide additional support for such changes. It is important to check for contractual language regarding work space and facilities.
Develop presentations with your audience in mind. Your terminology and presentation style should be appropriate for your audience. Use of audiovisual aids can focus additional emphasis on existing needs.
Consider giving presentations at a regularly scheduled meeting of some of the following groups:
Community organizations (e.g. Lions Club, Optimists Club, Jaycees)
Urge parents and teachers to attend such meetings when appropriate.
Monies can be found in a variety of places. Consider the following sources:
Speech-language or audiology budget
Regular education monies
Monies slotted for building improvements
Monies received from third party billing (Medicaid reimbursement)
Increased monies via IDEA
The following specific strategies have been used successfully in endeavors to improve facilities including the office/treatment room, classroom acoustics, materials and testing equipment, and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) equipment.
Ask the building principal or assistant principal to observe you for a day so he or she can directly experience the difficulties caused by an inadequate room.
Make your need for permanent space apparent to others. In one situation, the building principal found the SLP an office after the SLP used a conference room next to the principal's office.
Rely on the IEP as a tactic for identifying the need for an appropriate room as a part of the least restrictive environment for students.
Point out the need for privacy when making phone calls and holding conferences regarding students.
If small rooms do not have good ventilation and lighting, provide the administration with OSHA and other legal documents that address your specific needs and describe appropriate environments.
Hold parent and/or teacher conferences in your office so that other team members are aware of the learning environment in which students must receive therapy. Encourage them to contact administration regarding their own concerns about the room.
Indicate to the administration that you would like to transfer to another building because of the inadequacies at your current placement.
When you present information regarding students with conductive and/or sensorineural hearing losses, play a tape recording that demonstrates what it is like to hear with such losses.
Have members of the audience wear ear plugs while they listen to you speak without a microphone. A tape playing in the background can provide auditory distraction.
Include research information about the importance of amplification for students with ear infections as well as hearing losses, learning disabilities, speech and language impairments, and attention problems, and the relationship of these conditions to the development of phonological awareness and reading.
Create a graph indicating sound level measurements in classrooms when they are empty, between classes, and once class has begun. Compare data from rooms that have better acoustics (e.g., a carpeted library) with those that do not (e.g., the classroom that is next to the band room). If possible, ask your local university to send a graduate student in audiology to take the measurements for you.
Demonstrate the value of sound field classroom amplification systems by having a system set up while you give your presentation.
Provide charts and/or graphs based on current research that indicate the positive effect of sound field classroom amplification systems on the reading and other standardized test scores of children in the various grades.
Begin a project in which you keep pre- and post-test data to document the effectiveness of the sound field systems.
Provide a copy of “Classroom Acoustics: A Resource for Creating Learning Environments With Desirable Listening Conditions,” a publication of the technical committee on architectural acoustics of the Acoustical Society of America ( http://www.nonoise.org/quietnet/qc/booklet.htm).
To provide adequate services to students, speech-language pathologists and audiologists must have appropriate equipment and materials, including computers with Internet hook-up, tape recorders, calculators, textbooks, and standard office equipment. The following strategies can be used to demonstrate your need for adequate equipment and materials:
Provide information regarding the need to use up-to-date tests and norms for evaluating the district's students. Tests need to be current to reflect changes in demographics. They should also be nondiscriminatory in terms of age, race, language, and socioeconomic status.
Share the titles and copyright dates for the tests you are currently using.
Point out the normative information and indicate whether the sample reflects the population of your district.
IDEA '97 requires districts to consider if students require the use of supplementary aids for achieving success in the academic setting. Furthermore, speech-language pathologists are bound by the ASHA Code of Ethics to recommend appropriate intervention and equipment that will result in the student achieving the most effective communication possible. The following strategies are appropriate:
Indicate your current materials/equipment and needs.
Cite specific legal documentation from IDEA and ADA.
Emphasize that it is mandatory for districts to provide equipment that has been cited in a student's IEP.
Compare the size of your budget with that of a classroom teacher. Point out discrepancies in the budget amount, the number of students at varying grade levels, and the variety of communication disorders (compared to “subject” areas).
If your district is involved with third-party billing for Medicaid reimbursement, point out the amount of money that the speech-language-pathology program has provided for the district and request reimbursement. If the district agrees to let your department use some of this money, be sure to have this documented in writing.
Speech-Language Pathology Room:
|____||Quiet, free from distractions.|
|____||Service area that is private enough to permit confidentiality.|
|____||Available for the exclusive use of the SLP, when scheduled in the building.|
|____||Accessible for individuals who are nonambulatory, with access to emergency exits posted.|
|____||Located in the instructional area of the building that houses children of comparable age.|
|____||Adequately heated, cooled, lighted, and ventilated.|
|____||Sufficient electrical outlets available for operating program equipment (e.g., tape recorders, computers, amplification systems, augmentative devices).|
|____||Large enough to provide instruction for a full range of activities performed by the speech-language pathologist (individual or group treatment, team and parent meetings).|
|____||Secure storage of equipment and materials.|
|____||Availability of safety devices (fire and smoke alarms) that are in good working condition.|
Equipment and Furniture:
|____||Adequate storage space for reference and treatment materials.|
|____||Adequate locked storage space for student files.|
|____||Tables and chairs of appropriate size to accommodate the speech-language pathologist, students of various sizes and ages, and other adult team members.|
|____||Adequate instructional materials to meet the needs identified by the IEP.|
|____||Access to current instructional materials being used in the classroom.|
|____||One portable tape recorder with a supply of tapes, one portable auditory training unit, and one hearing aid battery tester.|
|____||Properly calibrated pure tone and/or impedance audiometers.|
|____||Instructional aids (mirror, chalkboard/erase board, and bulletin board) that meet the needs of the students' IEPs.|
|____||Adequate office equipment and supplies.|
|____||Assistive technology to meet the individual needs of students at the assessment and instructional levels.|
|____||Current evaluation instruments and equipment appropriate for the age, developmental ability, and disability condition of each student.|
|____||Telephone located in therapy room where confidentiality can be maintained.|
|____||Acceptable acoustic environment or use of acoustic treatments in the classroom to reduce ambient noise levels.|
|____||Adequate maintenance and prompt repair of all special equipment utilized for students with disabilities.|
|____||A computer, printer, appropriate software, and Internet access for treatment, multifactored valuations, team reports, progress reports, and other recordkeeping.|
Accommodations in the Classroom
|____||Appropriate space, lighting, electrical, and environment for speech-language pathologists and audiologists who work within a classroom setting.|
|____||Appropriate acoustical environment for speech-language pathologists and audiologists who work within a classroom setting.|
|____||Appropriate physical environment (including heating and ventilation) for speech-language pathologists and audiologists who work within a classroom setting.|
|____||All accessibility standards are the same as those included in the American Disabilities Act.|
|____||Accessibility to electricity including computer-adapted equipment, other student equipment, and therapy equipment with sufficient plugs and wattage for students working with speech-language pathologists and audiologists in a classroom setting.|
|____||Acoustical treatments including but not limited to low-level amplification systems for students working with speech-language pathologists and audiologists in a classroom setting.|
|____||Adequate materials including paper, markers, books, and other resources for speech-language pathologists and audiologists who work within a classroom setting.|
|____||Adequate equipment including but not limited to tape recorder, computer, computer programs, language masters, timers, books and resources, and tokens for speech-language pathologists and audiologists who work within a classroom setting.|
|____||Tilt-top desks and/or desks that are accessible and user-friendly, including access for wheelchairs and/or countertops for students working with speech-language pathologists and audiologists in a classroom setting.|
|____||Inclusive yet separate spaces for students and professionals such as study carrels, tables, and chairs in visually separated working spaces.|
Accommodations in the Speech-Language Pathology Room
|____||Appropriate space, lighting, and environment (meeting state and federal standards) for speech-language pathologists and audiologists and students.|
|____||Appropriate acoustical environment (meeting state and federal standards) for speech-language pathologists and audiologists and students including both diagnostic (testing) sites and therapy sites.|
|____||Appropriate physical environment (including heating, ventilation, etc.) that meets state and federal standards for speech-language pathologists and audiologists and students.|
|____||Accessibility standards that meet American Disabilities Act standards; all areas where speech-language pathologists and audiologists work also must meet the same standards.|
|____||Accessibility to electricity for equipment including computer-adapted equipment, other student equipment, and therapy equipment, with sufficient plugs and wattage for students working with speech-language pathologists and audiologists.|
|____||Acoustical treatments including but not limited to low-level amplification systems.|
|____||Adequate diagnostic equipment and therapy materials including paper, markers, books, and other resources for speech-language pathologists and audiologists working with students.|
|____||Adequate equipment including but not limited to tape recorder, computer, computer programs, language masters, timers, books and resources, and tokens for speech-language pathologists and audiologists.|
|____||Tilt-top desks and/or desks that are accessible and user-friendly including access for wheelchairs and/or countertops for students working with speech-language pathologists and audiologists.|
|____||Inclusive yet separate spaces for students and professionals, such as study carrels, tables, and chairs in visually separated working spaces.|
Accessibility Issues for All Areas for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists and Students
|____||Building has nonslip surfaces for mobility.|
|____||Building has guide rails, ramps, elevators, and accessible automated door mechanisms.|
|____||Accessibility standards meet American Disabilities Act standards for facilities such as parking, exterior routes, entries into buildings and rooms, alarms, telephones, drinking fountains, restrooms, and eating areas (including vending machines).|
|____||All areas where speech-language pathologists and audiologists work also must meet the same standards.|
|Agree completely||Agree somewhat||Disagree somewhat||Disagree completely|
|1.||Students' focus and attention span has improved||X||X||X||X|
|2.||Students stay on task longer with less ongoing direction||X||X||X||X|
|3.||Students follow directions with fewer questions||X||X||X||X|
|4.||Students are more involved in discussions and group activities||X||X||X||X|
|5.||Test scores overall seem to have improved||X||X||X||X|
|6.||Behavioral and LD referrals have declined||X||X||X||X|
|7.||I feel less fatigued at the end of the day||X||X||X||X|
|8.||I experience fewer vocal problems||X||X||X||X|
|9.||I would recommend this system to others||X||X||X||X|
|10.||I believe the sound field system has been beneficial for everyone||X||X||X||X|
|11.||Additional notes, comments, observations:|
Listening Environment Profile, A Tool to Access the Listening Environment of Your Classroom. Reprinted by permission from Phonic Ear Inc., 1997.
|Agree completely||Agree somewhat||Disagree somewhat||Disagree completely|
|1.||I can hear the teacher better||X||X||X||X|
|2.||I can hear the teacher from anywhere in the room||X||X||X||X|
|3.||The teacher's instructions are more clear to me||X||X||X||X|
|4.||I like to use the microphone||X||X||X||X|
|5.||I am learning more||X||X||X||X|
|6.||Other students seem to pay more attention to the teacher||X||X||X||X|
|7.||Other students make less noise||X||X||X||X|
|8.||It's easier for me to pay attention to the teacher||X||X||X||X|
|9.||I am less tired at the end of the day||X||X||X||X|
|10.||My teacher doesn't have to yell anymore||X||X||X||X|
|11.||I would like to have sound field in my classroom next year||X||X||X||X|
Sound field amplification has been used over the past 30 years as a solution to improve classroom listening and learning environments. Classrooms are auditory-verbal environments; classroom acoustics often compromise listener's abilities to attend and comprehend. Recent innovations in sound field amplification provide many opportunities to enhance listening environments. This summary describes sound field efficacy studies in the following cluster areas: improvement in academic achievement, speech recognition skills, and attending and learning behaviors, as well as various teacher, cost, and preference benefits.
It is important to consider a variety of factors before recommending, installing, and implementing infrared or FM sound field amplification in a learning facility. The acoustical environment must be evaluated and specific needs addressed before selecting sound field amplification as a solution. Various checklists are available to guide speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and other school personnel in selecting the appropriate system for a particular environment ( Flexer, Crandell, & Smaldino, 1995; Florida Department of Education, 1995).
Improvement in Academic Achievement
|Investigators||Student Population||Results Obtained With Sound Field Amplification|
|Ray, Sarff, & Glassford ( 1984); Sarff ( 1981)||MARRS Project (4th–6th grade students with minimal hearing loss and academic deficit & normal learning potential)||The MARRS project demonstrated that students with minimal hearing loss and learning disabilities in amplified classrooms made significant academic gains at a faster rate, to a higher level, and at one-tenth the cost of students in unamplified resource room settings.|
|Ray ( 1992)||MARRS validation (4th–6th graders with minimal hearing loss & academic deficit)||Students with minimal hearing loss instructed in unamplified classrooms performed academically at an average 0.4 SD below normal. Students with minimal hearing loss in amplified classrooms performed at or above average|
|Flexer ( 1989, 1992); Osborn, VonderEmbse, & Graves ( 1989)||MARCS project (K--3rd graders in regular education classes)||Students in classes with FM sound field amplification achieved higher scores in listening, vocabulary, math concepts, and math computation on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, with greater gains made by younger students.|
|Schermer ( 1991)||First grade students with normal hearing and minimal hearing loss||Higher reading test scores were attained by students with minimal/mild hearing loss in amplified class rooms; decreased posttest scores were identified for students with known minimal/mild hearing loss in unamplified classrooms.|
|Howell ( 1996)||15 normal hearing, regular education 3rd graders||Significant improvement was noted in test scores when teacher used sound field FM to present new information.|
|Valente ( 1998)||64 college students enrolled in audiology and aural rehabilitation classestest||Use of sound field amplification showed significant differences among scores for the audiology course at the 4th, 5th, and final exam, with similar results for the aural rehabilitation course|
Improvement in Speech Recognition Skills
|Investigators||Student Population||Results Obtained With FM Sound Field Amplification|
|Crandell & Bess ( 1987)||20 students with normal hearing||Students showed significant improvement in sentence recognition ability under the amplified condition in typical classrooms (S/N = +6 dB, RT = 0.6 s).|
|Blair, Myrup, & Viehweg ( 1989)||10 students (CA: 7–14 yrs.) with mild-moderate SNHL||Students with mild/moderate SNHL demonstrated an average of 12% improvement in word recognition score when using personal hearing aids with FM sound field over hearing aids alone.|
|Jones, Berg, & Viehweg ( 1989)||Kindergarten students with normal hearing (n = 18) and mild hearing loss (n = 18)||Use of FM sound field amplification decreased student-teacher distance and produced word recognition scores comparable to close listening at 4 feet.|
|Flexer, Millin, & Brown ( 1990)||Primary age children with developmental disabilities||Developmentally disabled students with history of persistent conductive hearing loss exhibited improved word recognition scores.|
|Neuss, Blair, & Viehweg ( 1991)||Students with minimal hearing loss||Students with minimal hearing loss demonstrated improved word recognition scores in noise when using sound field amplification rather than personal hearing aids.|
|Zabel & Tabor ( 1993)||145 regular education 3rd–5th grade students||Students achieved improved spelling test scores under FM sound field amplification in quiet and under degraded listening at a +12 dB S/N.|
|Crandell ( 1993)||20 students with normal hearing||Significantly higher word recognition scores were achieved by students at distances of 12 and 24 feet when using sound field amplification.|
|Crandell ( 1996)||20 non-native English speaking children||Improved speech perception scores were achieved at distances of 12 and 24 feet when using sound field amplification.|
|Poissant, Brackett, & Maxon (1997)||10 normal hearing children using mild gain hearing aids and 10 children withl multi-channel cochlear implants||FM sound field amplification partially restored acoustical cues obliterated by distance and noise, making it easier for cochlear implant users in the mainstream to accurately perceive speech.|
|Smaldino, Green, & Nelson ( 1997)||31 normal hearing college students in a phonetics class||Significantly fewer fine auditory discrimination errors with sound field amplification at approximately +10 dB than in an unamplified condition.|
|Cranell, Holmes, Flexer, & Payne ( 1998)||8 children and 10 adults with cochlear implants||Traditionally placed sound field system did not sigificantly augment speech recognition for listeners with cochlear implants on any of four subtests of the Early Speech Perception Test Battery under any of four listening conditions.|
|Prendergast ( 1999)||101 K-2nd grade regular education students with normal hearing||Mean word recognition scores on the WIPI increased 4.12% when using sound field amplification.|
Improvement in Students' Attending and Learning Behaviors
|Investigators||Student Population||Results Obtained With FM Sound Field Amplification|
|Berg, Bateman, & Viehweg ( 1989)||Regular education junior high school students||Students and teachers preferred the use of sound field amplification, students showed improved listening and understanding, and teachers noted ease of listening and teaching.|
|Gilman & Danzer ( 1989)||9 amplified and 9 control classes 2nd and 4th grade regular education students||Student attentiveness to verbal instruction and activities, as well as the ability to hear classroom instruction, improved when using FM sound field amplification.|
|Allen & Patton ( 1990)||1st and 2nd grade students with normal hearing||Student distractibility and request for repetitions decreased and on-task behavior increased significantly (17%) with sound field.|
|Benafield ( 1990)||4- and 5-year-old preschoolers with speech-language delay||Preschoolers with severe language impairment in an amplified classroom showed increased attending behaviors and improvement in the use of appropriate comments.|
|Flexer, Richards, & Buie ( 1993)||283 first grade students with and without known history of hearing problems||Higher SIFTER scores computed for at-risk and no risk students in amplified classes and lowest scores were reported for at-risk students in unamplified classes.|
|Carlson-Smith & Nelson ( 1995)||244 first grade students, low and high middle ear pathology risk||Students with high middle ear pathology (MEP) risk in amplified class rooms were able to listen better in competing noise than peers with MEP in unamplified classes.|
|Rosenberg, Blake-Rahter, & Heavner ( 1995)||ICA project (2,054 K-2nd grade students in 94 regular education classes)||Significantly higher scores were obtained by students in amplified classes for listening and academic behaviors and academic skills, with the greatest gains for amplified kindergartners.|
|Palmer ( 1996)||Eight K-2nd grade students; single subject design||A significant decrease in inappropriate behaviors and a significant increase in appropriate behaviors were identified immediately following sound field treatment.|
|Bitner, Prelock, Ellis, & Tzanis ( 1996)||2 groups of regular education 2nd graders (attentive group and inattentive group)||Sound field amplification produced a significant increase in selective attending behaviors for students with difficulty listening to instruction in the presence of noise.|
|Investigators||Population||Results Obtained With FM Sound Field Amplification|
|Allen ( 1993)||90 general education elementary teachers||(preference) Once familiar with the system, teachers ranked sound field's usefulness above that of other instructional delivery equipment.|
|Nelson & Schmidt ( 1993)||20 general education K-3rd grade teachers||(open classroom) Teachers in open classrooms reported greater success than those in traditional classrooms, although all teachers identified benefits.|
|Osborn, VonderEmbse, & Graves ( 1989)||47 amplified K-3 regular education classrooms||(teacher's voice) Fewer teachers absences and laryngitis when using sound field amplification|
|Rosenberg et al. (in press)||55 general education K-2 teachers||(teacher's voice) 100% agreement that reduced vocal strain was the greatest benefit from sound field amplification|
|Rosenberg ( 1998)||1 acoustically modified and 1 amplified relocatable classroom||(cost) Sound field amplification was provided at 1/5 the cost of acoustical modifications in newly constructed relocatable classrooms|
|Rosenberg et al. ( 1999)||64 general education K-2 amplified classrooms||(cost) Typical classroom (25 students, 1 teacher) daily cost per person was $.14 or $.03/day over 5 years.|
Benafield, N. (1990). The effects of sound field amplification on the attending behaviors of speech and language-delayed preschool children Unpublished master's thesis. University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Berg, F., Bateman, R., & Viehweg, S. (1989, November). Sound field FM amplification in junior high school classrooms. Paper presented at the American Speech-Language- Hearing Association Convention, St. Louis, MO.
Bitner, B., Prelock, P., Ellis, C., & Tzanis, E. (1996, November). Group sound field amplification and attending behaviors in the classroom setting. Presented at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Convention, Seattle, WA.
Carlson-Smith, C., & Nelson, N. (1995, March). Classroom amplification, middle ear pathology, and classroom success. Paper presented at the Michigan Speech-Language-Hearing Association annual conference, Bellaire, MI.
Crandell, C., Holmes, A., Flexer, C., & Payne, M. (1998). Effects of sound field FM amplification on the speech recognition of listeners with cochlear implants. Journal of Educational Audiology, 6, 21–27.
Flexer, C., Millin, J., & Brown, L. (1990). Children with developmental disabilities: The effect of sound field amplification on word identification. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 21, 177–182.
Flexer, C., Richards, C., & Buie, C. (1993, April). Sound field amplification for regular kindergarten and first grade classrooms: A longitudinal study of fluctuating hearing loss and pupil performance. Paper presented at the American Academy of Audiology Convention, Phoenix, AZ.
Neuss, D., Blair, J., & Viehweg, S. (1991). Sound field amplification: Does it improve word recognition in a background of noise for students with minimal hearing impairments? Educational Audiology Monograph, 2, 43–52.
Osborn, J., VonderEmbse, D., & Graves, L. (1989). Development of a model program using sound field amplification for prevention of auditory-based learning disabilities Unpublished study. Ottawa, OH: Putnam County Office of Education.
Prendergast, S. (1999, June). The effects of sound field amplification system configuration, grade, sex, and hearing status on speech discrimination ability of primary aged children. Paper presented at the Educational Audiology Association conference, Lake Geneva, WI.
Rosenberg, G., Blake-Rahter, P., & Heavner, J. (1995, November). Enhancing listening and learning environments with FM sound field classroom amplification. Paper presented at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention, Orlando, FL.
Rosenberg, G., Blake-Rahter, P., Heavner, J., Allen, L., Redmond, B., Phillips, J., & Stigers, K. (1999). Improving classroom acoustics (ICA): A three-year FM sound field classroom amplification study. Journal of Educational Audiology, 7, 8–28.
This draft standard provides acoustical performance criteria and accompanying design guidelines intended to ensure good speech communication among students and teachers in learning spaces. The performance criteria set upper limits for background noise level and reverberation time (RT). To ensure that noise limits are not exceeded, adequate sound isolation between classrooms and adjacent spaces will be needed. Recommended design guidelines for this noise isolation are provided. The standard will apply to new and renovated learning spaces. It is intended for indoor spaces where small or large groups of students assemble for educational purposes, or where speech or auditory therapies and related services are provided.
Acoustical performance specifications are defined in this standard by (a) maximum allowable A-weighted levels of background noise and (b) maximum allowable RTs for learning spaces. Also provided are recommended design guidelines for the minimum sound transmission class (STC) for common partitions separating classrooms from adjacent spaces (such as other classrooms and corridors), STC for external walls, and minimum values of sound and impact isolation provided by floor/ceiling assemblies.
Background noise levels refer to the ongoing noise level in a learning space with all typical noise sources present (excluding sound from teachers and students within that learning space). The background noise should be limited to ensure adequate speech communication. It is measured as an A-weighted sound level in decibels (commonly designated by the abbreviation dBA), and also as a C-weighted sound level in decibels (commonly designated by the abbreviation dBC). These separate measurements are sometimes compared to provide additional information about the nature of the noise. Background noise levels are usually due to the following:
Noise from services and appliances. The total background noise in a room, in the absence of any external noise sources, is typically dominated by noise from air conditioning, lighting fixtures, and any electric and mechanical equipment found in normally furnished spaces.
External noise sources. Automobile traffic, trains, aircraft, etc. are common external noise sources. Intrusive noise from teachers and children engaged in learning activities in adjacent learning spaces is also common. Penetration of these noises through the building façade and room walls and doors should be a consideration when predicting the noise levels in a learning space. These are addressed further under “Acoustic Privacy.”
RT is the amount of time (in seconds) required for an impulsive noise to fall by 60 dB. It is commonly perceived as echo. The RT of a classroom must be limited to ensure good speech communication, to limit noise buildup within the space, and to help reduce intrusive noise between adjacent spaces. RT may be reduced through the judicious addition of sound-absorbing materials to the surfaces in the room.
Acoustical separation between spaces allows for quality communication in each space. Acoustical privacy suggests superior sound isolation from airborne, appliance, and impact noise sources.
Airborne sound insulation. The ability of the building to reduce the intrusion of airborne noise (e.g., noise caused by voices, music, and multimedia presentations) is known as airborne sound insulation. Such performance is critical to a quality learning environment. Airborne sound insulation, or transmission loss, is quantified in decibels across a frequency range or may be reduced to a single number rating. For performance across walls, the STC is often specified. For airborne sound insulation across spaces with a common ceiling plenum, the ceiling attenuation class (CAC) is often employed.
Impact sound insulation. Impact sounds, such as heel strikes or a chair being moved, require proper ceiling/floor design to ensure that they do not transmit as noise to the space below. Such acoustical performance is often specified by the impact sound insulation class (IIC) and is quantified in decibels of reduction of impact noise.
The services of a qualified acoustical professional may be required when a newly built or renovated school does not appear to meet the criteria delineated below. For purposes of this standard, a qualified acoustical professional is one who meets at least one of the following criteria: (a) is currently board certified by the Institute of Noise Control Engineering (INCE), or (b) is formally educated and professionally recognized as an expert in noise control, or (c) is an experienced employee of a firm for which the primary activity is acoustical consulting, or (d) is under the close technical supervision of a principal of a firm who is a member of the National Council of Acoustical Consultants (NCAC).
The maximum total steady-state background noise level for unoccupied learning spaces will be the following:
Ancillary learning spaces (such as hallways, cafeteria): 40 dBA
Nelson: Epilogue 393
The maximum average reverberation time in unoccupied learning spaces (average of 500, 1000, and 2000 Hz measures) will be the following:
Rooms with volume less than 283 m3 (10,000 ft3) 0.6 s
Rooms with volumes larger than 283 m3 (but less than 566 m3) 0.7 s
Intermittent intrusive noises 5 dB higher than these recommended levels are allowable if they do not occur for more than 5 minutes per hour.
Informative annexes will be attached to the standard when complete. These will include:
a detailed rationale for the proposed standard;
design guidelines for achieving recommended noise and reverberation levels;
key characteristics of quiet heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems and information sources for designing and installing quiet HVAC systems;and
methods for validating background noise levels and RTs.
1. What causes high noise levels and other acoustical problems in classrooms?
Most noise problems are caused by excessively loud heating-ventilation-air conditioning units (HVAC)
Other noise sources in the classroom include the lights, AV and electronic equipment, pencil sharpeners, aquariums, and children moving about the room and talking
Street and playground noise from outside the building penetrates classrooms
Hallway and adjacent classroom noise also infiltrates the classroom.
2. Who is at risk for learning problems due to poor classroom acoustics?
Crandell, Smaldino, and Flexer ( 1995) identified the following groups of students as at risk for learning problems in the classroom:
Children with any hearing loss whether unilateral, bilateral, high frequency, minimal, or fluctuating
Children younger than age 13
Children who have articulation disorders
Children who have language-learning problems
Children who have learning disabilities
Children who are non-native English speakers
Children who have a history of otitis media
Children who have auditory processing disorders
or, about up to 20% of all school-age children.
3. What are the effects of noise on hearing in the classroom?
masked speech sounds
decreased speech perception abilities
decreased comprehension of information
reduced academic achievement
increased social-emotional problems.
4. What are other effects of poor classroom acoustics?
Increased voice fatigue for teachers ( Allen, 1995). An Iowa study found that the highest percentage of teacher absences was due to voicerelated problems.
Students' listening effort increases ( Ross, 1992). The energy that is put into trying to hear the teacher reduces the student's ability to focus on what is being said.
Developmental factors related to language capacity. These factors cause younger children to have more problems than older children.
Students with hearing impairment listen through a filter created by their hearing loss:
hearing aids amplify all sounds
assistive technology improves signal-to-noise ratios
assistive listening devices are a necessity for most students with hearing loss.
5. What actions are being taken to improve classroom acoustics?
The U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (the Access Board) has recommended that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) be amended to improve acoustical accessibility in schools for children.
Petition for rulemaking; Request for Information on Acoustics - June 1, 1998, Federal Register, 63,104.
Response to Petition for Rulemaking on Classroom Acoustics (36 CFR Chapter XI, November 8, 1999).The Access Board reported that it would support the development of a standard of classroom acoustical design by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Committee of Noise (S-12), under the secretariat of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA).
Final report due to Access Board 5-1-2001; rules to affect new construction, remodeling, and potentially other classrooms or buildings as determined by individual student's needs.
President Clinton and Congress have legislation pending to promote school facility renovation.
The High Performance Schools Act of 1999 (U.S. Representative Mark Udall, 10/25/99) to promote better learning environments for children and operational efficiency; U.S. Department of Education would administer program.
6. What will it cost to improve classroom acoustics?
Retrofitting poorly designed HVAC systems or installing wall, ceiling, or floor treatments costs two to five times more than proper original design and construction.
Although the cost to provide proper acoustical environments is estimated to raise construction costs by 5%, the benefit-to-cost ratio over time when comparing the educational benefits of improved signal-to-noise ratios is estimated to be 40:1 ( Lubman & Sutherland, 1999).
7. What can be done to increase awareness about the problems associated with classroom acoustics?
Assemble school facilities personnel who are responsible for school facility planning, design, and remodeling along with school audiologists, building principals, teachers, parents, and others who are knowledgeable and/or interested in this problem; also include local architectural firms and acoustical engineers.
Have a meeting to raise awareness of the problems, the pending ADA regulations on classroom acoustics, and to discuss plans for addressing the problem.
8. What can teachers and schools do to improve acoustical conditions in their classrooms?
Add carpet or rugs to the floor; if this is not possible, put rubber tips or tennis balls on the chair legs or use cushions in place of chairs.
Put drapes on windows and wall.
Use cork board on walls for bulletin boards to reduce reflective surfaces.
Use bookshelves as room dividers to create quiet classroom spaces.
Landscape with trees and berms to reduce outside noise.
Close doors to hallways.
Suspend acoustical tile.
Ensure that lighting is adequate.
For more information on classroom acoustics see: www.classroomacoustics.com
Crandall, C., Smaldino, J., & Flexer, C. (1995). Speech perception in specific populations. In C. Crandall, J. Smaldino, & C. Flexer (Eds.), Sound field FM amplification (pp. 49–65). San Diego: Singular Publishing.
Lubman, D., & Sutherland, I. (November, 1999). Good classroom acoustics are a good investment for America. Paper presented at the 138th Annual Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, Columbus, OH.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2001). Code of ethics (revised). ASHA Leader, 6(23), 2.
This appendix refers to the Code of Ethics that was current at the time of publication of this document. However, ASHA's Code of Ethics is reviewed and revised periodically. Readers should always be sure to refer to the most updated version of the Code.
ASHA Action Center: 1-800-638-8255 (consumers)
Web site: www.asha.org
Code of Ethics
Scope of Practice in Speech-Language Pathology
Preferred Practice Patterns for the Profession of Speech-Language Pathology
A Workload Approach for Establishing Speech-Language Caseload Standards in the Schools
Helping Children Communicate (brochure for SLPs and audiologists in schools)
Helping Children Communicate (brochure for teachers)
Inclusive Practices for Children and Youths with Communication Disorders
Maximizing the Provision of Appropriate Technology Services and Devices for Students in Schools: Executive Summary
Providing Appropriate Education for Students with Learning Disabilities in Regular Education Classrooms
A Model for Collaborative Service Delivery for Students With Language Learning Disorders in the Public Schools
Guidelines for the Provision of Audiology Services in and for Schools
More Than Meets the Ears (brochure)
Noise, Hearing Loss, and School-Age Children (brochure)
Preferred Practice Patterns for the Profession of Audiology
Roles and Responsibilities for School-Based Speech-Language Pathologists
Working for Change: A Guide for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists in Schools
The State Advocacy Guidebook for the Salary Supplement Initiative
M-Power Box: The Power of One
Express Yourself: Building Awareness of Speech-Language Pathology Services in Schools
Focused Initiative: School-Based Programs and Services
 Websites are listed as available at time of publication of this document
 Speech-language pathologists and audiologists should refer to state and federal stabdards when completing this checkllist.
[*] Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools • Vol. 31 • 391–393 • October 2000
 Background noise levels in spaces whose primary intent is instruction will be estimated/measured when classrooms are unoccupied, with installed services and appliances runing (such as heating and air-conditioning units). Additional equipment such as computers and audiovisual equipment will be turned off.
 Required background noise levels for spaces whose primary intent is instruction must be maintained when children are occupying adjacent learning spaces, during typical learning activities. Thus, installed walls and doors must be of sufficient quality to prevent typical noise levels from intruding into adjacent rooms at levels that exceed these requirements.
 For purposes of this Code of Ethics, misrepresentation includes any untrue statements or statements that are likely to mislead. Misrepresentation also includes the failure to state any information that is material and that ought, in fairness, to be considered.
Index terms: equipment and supplies, classroom acoustics, schools
Reference this material as: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2002). Appropriate school facilities for students with speech-language-hearing disorders [Technical Report]. Available from www.asha.org/policy/.
© Copyright 2002 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. All rights reserved.
Disclaimer: The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association disclaims any liability to any party for the accuracy, completeness, or availability of these documents, or for any damages arising out of the use of the documents and any information they contain.