The Importance of Classroom Acoustics

Managing classroom noise is not simply a matter of unruly students.

Many classroom’s average noise levels exceed recommended guidelines and are likely to compromise children’s ability to hear the teacher and their peers. Excessive classroom noise includes everything from highway traffic and playground noise to noise from other classrooms and hallways, children’s voices within a classroom as well as any potential noise from HVAC systems.

Classroom acoustics is becoming an increasingly important issue as research continues to show that excessive noise and reverberation affect a student’s ability to listen, read and learn. Excessive noise can also affect a child’s behavior. Noise control is especially important in children under the age of 15 because they are still developing mature language skills.

Studies show the type of noise also affects different cognitive processes in different ways. This study (Shield & Dockrell, 2004) indicated that two different noise conditions had differential effects on the children’s performance on verbal and nonverbal tasks. Noise condition accounted for a significant proportion of the variance: 16% for reading and 20% for spelling. Performance on verbal tasks was negatively affected by noise created by other students within the classroom (in-classroom noise). Performance on the speed task was reduced with in-classroom noise but further reduced when it was also superimposed with environmental noise.

A loss of speech intelligibility due to excessive classroom noise presents a particular difficulty for students with a variety of special situations, such as learning disabilities, hearing impairment, ear infections, or students that are concurrently learning English as a second language.

The implications also affect both the well-being of teachers and vocal strain due to “talking over” a noisy environment.

Creating Happy Learning Environments

The main concern when it comes to classroom acoustics is improving speech intelligibility through the entire space – meaning even in the back row.

In addition to taking into consideration noise control for environmental factors (such as adequately housing HVAC systems), significant improvement can be made by incorporating high-performing sound-absorbing applications into the design.

While different educational spaces have different needs and requirements, the reverberation in a learning environment can be reduced with the simple addition of acoustic ceiling tiles or installations, wall applications and even carpet.

Ceiling Applications

Acoustical baffles and acoustical clouds are an aesthetically pleasing way to help minimize room reverberation and increase speech intelligibility, particularly in spaces with high ceilings like an auditorium or a gym.

Wall Tiles

Sound-absorbing materials can also be applied to the walls to reduce reverberation. Since wall tiles will be physically closer to the source of the teacher speaking, any reverberation from his or her voice will be dampened and easier to hear. Another benefit of acoustic wall tiles is that there are several available options for a renovation or retrofit.

Space Division

Acoustical dividers are not only good for breaking up a multi-purpose space or providing desk-to-desk privacy. When made from high-quality sound-absorbing materials (like PET felt) they can affect the overall soundscape of the space.

Outside the Classroom

Incorporating sound-absorbing materials is just as important in spaces outside the classroom as they are inside classrooms. Wall panels, dividers and baffling can help reduce the reverberation of a noisy cafeteria or bustling hallway, having a positive effect on the sound of any classrooms that share a wall with these typically noisy spaces.

PET Cleanability and Durability

PET is an acoustical felt made from 55% post-consumer recycled content and 45% virgin PET, making it durable in environments where it may get a lot of wear and tear. It’s also easy to clean and disinfect in accordance with CDC guidelines as effective against the virus that causes COVID-19 and other communicable diseases.

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