Noise Control At School – Are Our Kids Missing Their Education?

Imagine if you were reading a textbook essential for a particular subject. How would you feel if out of every four words, one is completely omitted? No doubt, you would return it to the bookstore and ask for a refund! Yet, such problems are actually plaguing schools nationwide as we speak students are literally missing out words from their teachers in poorly designed classrooms and lecture halls. In such cases, there is no refund – only social costs that continue to plague succeeding batches of students.

In this article, we will discuss ways in which the design of educational spaces have gone wrong from an acoustic point of view – and some possible solutions for noise control.

Noise Control Problems

Although noise control problems could be due to student discipline issues, those are not the only reasons for high noise levels. There are 2 main acoustic problems in the classrooms. They are:

Excessive Noise

Excessive Reverberation

These 2 problems directly interfere with speech – the most important element we need to preserve in education. Excessive reverberation can turn the tiniest whispers of students into a mess of sound when they are repeatedly reflected off the walls. This increases the noise floor of the classroom, and the teacher would have to raise her voice to be heard. The teacher’s voice, in turn is also subject to that same reverberation, causing a notable loss in speech intelligibility. Even when using a microphone, reverberation problems can make matters way worse than without a microphone. Excessive noise is usually due to poor isolation between classrooms. Some schools feature open plan classrooms, which are a terrible idea from an acoustic point of view – because unwanted noise from a neighbouring class can be readily transmitted into another. Noise control becomes difficult, even if attempts are made to instill discipline among students. There are other sources of noise, but is usually a combination of excessive noise and reverberation that causes speech to be unlistenable after long periods of time.

Why is Lack of Noise Control Detrimental?

One would think only hearing impaired students need better noise control. This is not true. Even if a student has no hearing problems, there are many instances where noise control in a classroom has a significant impact on his learning. For example, younger students do not have the same amount of contextual knowledge as an older student attending college. As a result, during formative lessons where important fundamentals are taught, missing a single word or two can seriously impede their progress in learning. A younger student’s lack of understanding – just because noise control was not implemented is a regrettable situation. Even older students need better noise control. Foreign students enter universities where English might not be their first language, and it is often the case that a lecturer’s words become unintelligible due to poor noise control in the design of a lecture h