Impact of poor acoustics

Several studies and written reports over the last 40-50 years have shown the extent to which poor classroom acoustics impact negatively on children’s learning performance.

The research of Ross (1972) and Ross, Giolas& Carver (1973) presented, for the first time, powerful evidence of the effect of classroom conditions on speech intelligibility. When these research studies were undertaken, there were no articles available dealing with the behaviour of sound in a classroom and its impact on children and nothing on reverberation time and critical distance.

  • Ross, M. (1972) 'Classroom acoustics and speech intelligibility in J Katz (Ed.) Handbook of Clinical Audiology. Baltimore

  • Ross, M., Giolas, T.G. & Carver, P.W. (1973) The effect of classroom conditions on speech intelligibility: A replication in Language and Hearing Services to Schools, 4, 72-76

Research to show that poor academic outcomes are partly due to poor acoustic accessibility are documented by Dockerell & Shield (2008) in ‘The effects of environmental and classroom noise on the academic attainments of primary school children.’They found that external noise can have a significant negative impact upon performance and that test scores were also negatively affected by internal classroom noise. 

Other studies showing links to behaviour, listening and communication, and social /emotional /mental health:

  • Behaviour: Maag J.W. & Anderson J.M. (2006) ‘Effects of Sound-Field Amplification to Increase Compliance of Students With Emotional and Behavior Disorders.’ Behavioral Disorders, 31(4), 378-393.

  • Communication: Cornwell S. & Evans C.J. (2001) ‘The effects of sound-field amplification on attending behaviours.’ Journal of Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology, 25(3), 135-144.

  • Social/emotional/mental health: Klatte M., Hellbrück J., Seidel J., Leistner P. (2010). ‘Effects of classroom acoustics on performance and well-being in elementary school children.’ Fraunhofer Journal Article: eb 42 (2010), No 5, pp.659-692