Understanding Hearing Loss

Katy Mitchell | View as single page | Feedback/Impact

Listening Environment

A study by Klatte et al, (2010) showed that background noise had a greater impact on children’s speech perception and listening comprehension than adults, with high levels of classroom noise adversely impacting attainment.

Children are not able to make sense of words they have missed, as their auditory neurological network is not fully developed (Cole and Flexer 2011).

As a young baby in close proximity to a parent's voice becomes an active toddler, the listening environments that are experienced will become more challenging e.g. a pre-school held in an echoey church hall or a birthday party in a sports hall or leisure centre.  The adverse effects of noise and reverberation may result in a reduction in speech recognition by 50% (Finitzo-Heiber & Tillman, 1978). Nursery classrooms have noise levels ranging from 34 to 73dBA (Schafer and Thibodeau 2006).

Minimum standards for the acoustics of school buildings are now in place to improve listening conditions for effective teaching and learning (DfE 2015).  Acoustic changes can be made to classrooms to significantly reduce echo and improve access to the spoken word.

Disability Access Fund (DAF) is available to be used in nursery and pre-school settings if a child is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance to help to make changes to the listening environment.

A number of companies specialise in acoustic improvements and can be contacted for advice.

 The Woolly Shepherd produces sustainable acoustic solutions from natural fibres. In this video, nursery staff talk about improving outcomes for children through the installation of acoustic sound clouds.




Roberts Audio Solutions provide acoustic treatment for schools and acoustic partition room dividers. This video shows what a room sounds like before and after treatment with acoustic clouds. This video shows how acoustic treatment can improve a nursery's listening environment by reducing reverberation.



 Ecophon have created a website 'That Sounds Better' where various acoustic products such as ceiling tiles and wall panels can be ordered to improve the listening environment. This video illustrates listening in an untreated classroom and the difference made with an absorbing ceiling and then an absorbing ceiling combined with wall absorption.


RG Sound Solutions can provide advice and support for acoustic improvements in education settings.



The BabbleGuard is an LED bar with a sound sensor, which varies in colour, using a traffic light system (green, amber and res) to indicate the level of sound in the learning environment. This fact sheet provides further information and instructions.



A fact sheet entitled 'Creating good listening conditions for learning in education' has been produced by the NDCS providing tips for classroom teachers to improve the listening environment.

The NDCS has produced a short video suggesting how the listening environment can be improved.


A MESHGuide has been produced which gives further information about Acoustics - hearing, listening and learning.





Canning, D and James, A. (2012) The Essex Study optimised classroom acoustics for all. St Albans. The Association of Noise Consultants.

Cole, E. B., Flexer, C. (2011) Children with hearing loss, developing listening and talking. San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing.

Department for Education and Skills (2003) ‘Acoustic Design of Schools’, Building Bulletin 93. London: The Stationery Office.

Department for Education (2015) ‘Acoustic design of school: performance standards’, Building Bulletin 93.

Finitzo-Hieber, T., and Tillman, T. (1978) ‘Room acoustics effects on monosyllabic word discrimination ability for normal and hearing-impaired children’. Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research. 21 pp. 440–458.

Klatte, M., Lachmann, T. and Meis, M. (2010) ‘Effects of noise and reverberation on speech perception and listening comprehension of children and adults in a classroom- like setting.’ Speech Perception and Understanding 12. pp. 270-82.

MESHGuides (2018) Acoustics – hearing, listening and learning [Online] [Accessed: 15 February 2021].

NDCS (2008) Hear to Learn: [Online] [Accessed: 15 February 2021].

NDCS 2018 Creating good listening conditions for learning in education [Online] [Accessed: 15 February 2021].

Schafer, E. C. and Thibodeau, L. M. (2006) ‘Speech recognition in noise in children with cochlear implants while listening in bilateral, bimodal, and FM-system arrangements’. American Journal of Audiology, (15). pp. 114-126.