Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) in Children: Guide

Campbell, N., Grant, P., Moore, D,R. and Rosen, S. | View as single page | Feedback/Impact

Acoustic environment

Architectural interventions to reduce reverberation and improve the signal-to-noise ratio should be considered for both new build schools and refurbishments.  Signal-to-noise ratio refers to the level of a desired signal (usually the teacher’s voice) in relation to background noise.  Architectural interventions are primarily about blocking out sounds from outside the classroom and absorbing noise within the classroom.  There are specific acoustic performance standards which UK schools are required to meet. 

CLICK HERE to access Acoustic Design of Schools: Performance Standards, Building Bulletin 93, Department for Education,

CLICK HERE to access Acoustics of Schools: A Design Guide, Institute of Acoustics and the Association of Noise Consultants, 2015 (which provides supporting guidance and recommendations on the acoustic design of new and refurbished schools).

Acoustic treatments such as carpets, curtains, doors, seals, rubber shoes on furniture legs, and double- glazed windows help reduce noise.  The installation of noise absorbent partitions or screens and preferential seating can also be considered.

Teachers and speakers are advised to face the listener, secure their attention, use clear speech, alter the pacing, emphasis and segmentation of their speech, and regularly check on the comprehension of verbal instruction.

Practical recommendations for the classroom

  • Provide preferential seating.  Seat the student near the teacher (primary sound source).  Allow flexibility in seating to achieve the preferential seating advantage.  The middle of the class towards the front is a possibility or at the front and to the side favoured by the teacher for main instruction giving.  This enables the student to access both visual and auditory information more easily and turn to see peers during discussions.
  • Avoid seating near noise sources.  Place the student away from competing or distracting noise sources such as outside noise or equipment in the classroom.
  • Acoustical modifications may be considered to create a good acoustical listening and learning environment (e.g., carpeting, curtains, and other sound absorbing materials).
  • Speak in a clear, well-modulated voice.  Be careful not to over-articulate.
  • Gain attention before giving instructions and regularly check for attention.
  • Try not to talk when your face is not visible to the class or your back is to the class, i.e. when writing on a board or looking down.
  • Discuss the difference between listening (active process) and hearing (a more passive process) – ‘I can hear but that doesn’t mean I’m listening’.  Explain how to be a good listener.
  • Reduce distractions, both auditory and visual.
  • If using a personal or soundfield assistive listening device make sure that it is working before starting the lesson and position the microphone appropriately.  Remember to ‘mute’ the system when speaking individually to another child or teacher or leaving the room.
  • Encourage the student to ask for clarification.

  • Frequently paraphrase or summarise key points.

  • Encourage self-monitoring and self-regulation (child evaluates his/her own listening and how to improve this).
  • Give positive feedback.

The Practical handouts section provides useful tips and practical information.

Visit the Acoustics: hearing, listening and learning MESHGuide