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Classroom Acoustics

It’s hard for students to learn in noisy classrooms. However, there are ways to reduce noise and improve classroom acoustics. Audiologists can provide additional information. Visit ProFind to locate a professional in your area.

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About Classroom Acoustics

Hearing and understanding are important parts of the learning process. A noisy classroom can make these tasks difficult. Noise in the classroom is more than students talking. There are other factors that make it hard to hear and understand in the classroom.

Acoustics is a term used to talk about how sound travels in a room. There are factors in the room design that may make sounds louder or softer. Examples include floor rugs, ceiling type, and air ducts. Classroom acoustics is the term for these issues in schools.

Background Noise and Reverberation

Two things cause poor classroom acoustics: too much background noise and/or too much reverberation.

Background noise is any sound that makes it hard to hear. In a classroom, background noise can come from many places, including the following:

  • Sounds from outside the building, such as cars and lawnmowers
  • Sounds from inside the building, such as students talking in the hallway
  • Sounds from inside the classroom, such as air conditioning units and students in the room

Reverberation describes how sounds act in a room after they first happen. Sounds stay in the room when they bounce off desks or walls. If many sounds do this at once, it can get very loud.

Problems Caused by Poor Classroom Acoustics

When classroom acoustics are poor, it can cause problems with how a student

  • understands speech;
  • reads and spells;
  • behaves in the classroom;
  • pays attention; and/or
  • concentrates.

It is important to keep the classroom as quiet as possible for all children.

Good Classroom Acoustics Helps Everyone

A quiet classroom helps teachers and students. It is especially important to have a quiet room if a student has

  • hearing loss in one or both ears;
  • an ear infection or fluid in the ear;
  • a learning disability;
  • auditory processing disorder;
  • speech and language delay; and/or
  • attention problems.

Teachers also do better if there are good classroom acoustics. Talking in a loud classroom strains the teacher’s voice and may lead to voice problems.

Improving Classroom Acoustics

It is important to think about background noise and reverberation in any space used for learning. Some simple ways to make a classroom quieter include the following:

  • Place rugs or carpet in the room.
  • Hang curtains or blinds in the windows.
  • Hang soft materials such as felt or corkboard on the walls.
  • Place tables at an angle around the room instead of in rows.
  • Turn off noisy equipment when it is not in use.
  • Replace noisy light fixtures.
  • Show students how hard it can be to hear when many children talk at the same time.
  • Place soft tips on the bottom of chairs and tables.

A brochure on The Noisy Classroom is available through the ASHA bookstore.

Other Resources

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