Acoustics - hearing, listening and learning: Guide

Ann Underwood, Roger Turner, Stuart Whyte, Joy Rosenberg, Pauline Cobbold, Gill Weston | View as single page | Comment/Feedback

10 questions to answer about acoustic accessibility in the classroom

  1. What is the acoustic performance of your classroom?

'Acoustic Performance' is the properties or qualities of the room that determine how sound is transmitted in it. If your pupils struggle to hear what you are saying, then establishing the acoustic performance of your classroom is a first step to resolving the problem.

  1. How can you find out the acoustic performance of your classroom and how far your natural teaching voice travels and remains intelligible – the ‘critical distance’?

An educational audiologist will be able to establish the acoustic characteristics of your classroom and provide advice as to what solutions are available. Contact your Local Authority SEND service and they should be able to put you in touch with someone who can help you, either from within the LA or from a specialist organisation.

  1. Do any of your pupils regularly struggle to hear what you are saying to them?

If a pupil does not make the expected progress it may be because they are not hearing clearly what is being said to them. The pupil is unlikely to volunteer this information, as they will not necessarily be aware that they have misheard or filled in the gaps, but it should be one of your investigative routes into determining the reasons for the underperformance.

  1. Do you regularly have to raise your voice to be heard by all your pupils in the classroom?

If you do have to raise your voice then you are in danger of developing throat problems and suffering from vocal strain, you will use up more energy and so feel more tired at the end of the day. Your louder voice is likely to be less intelligible than your normal speaking voice and, therefore, your pupils will struggle to listen to you.

  1. How good is your pupils’ hearing?

If you suspect that one or more of your pupils has less than good hearing then you could suggest that the pupil has their hearing tested.

  1. How can you get your pupils’ hearing tested if you are concerned?

Discuss with parents first; the pupil’s GP or the school nurse may be able to refer them to their audiology department according to local practice.

  1. Are you aware of your local authority’s support services for deaf children and young people?

Your school will have the contact details for all Local Authority support services. Most of these services usually only support children who wear hearing aids.

  1. What are your pupils’ attainment levels in relation to their hearing ability?

It is good practice to assess the attainment levels of your pupils against their identified special needs and difficulties and to be alert to the possibility that underperformance can be due to poor hearing.

  1. Have you thought about acceptable levels of noise in your classroom for different activities?

You can teach even the youngest children what are acceptable voice levels for different activities such as talking in a group, answering questions, playground voices.

  1. Have you ever taken any action to overcome acoustic accessibility problems experienced by your pupils in your classroom?

If you haven’t, don’t be put off, it is a problem for which there are easily available solutions and the benefits to your pupils can be significant in terms of their improved rate of progress and emotional wellbeing.