How noise affects kids at school

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It’s been proven in many studies that background noise can affect children’s ability to learn. Until a child is in their teens, it’s hard for them to separate sounds they want to listen to from those those they don’t want to focus on. It’s the most difficult for kids under the age of 5 and it can negatively affect language development and sleep.

If you’ve ever been at a loud restaurant or party and had to work hard to understand the person talking to you, that’s basically what it feels like. Problem is, for a child, it can be a classroom, home, or a Zoom call where they are struggling to understand!

If you’ve ever been at a loud concert with a PA and you can’t understand what the person with the mic is saying – that’s another example of how kids struggle with intelligibility. If an environment has loud background noise and the speaker isn’t crisp and clear (muffled, reverberant, etc) it can harder for them to understand, too.

Research findings about noisy schools

Preschoolers in daycares near elevated trains in New York City performed worse on gross/fine motor skills than children in quieter neighborhoods

Older students who attended school near New York City airports had lower reading skills than schools further from the airport

Children in Los Angeles who live near noisy highways had lower reading scores.

A school in New York found students in classrooms adjacent to a train track had poorer reading skills than students (of the same age) in classrooms away from the train tracks. When the train tracks and the classrooms were acoustically treated (to be less noisy), the reading skills of the two classrooms showed no difference.

What parents can do

  • Keep the background noise down at home. Try turning off the tv or music if it’s not the center focus.
  • Talk to teachers about the impact of background noise. This is especially true of virtual learning, where teachers may have no idea how difficult it is when everyone has their mics unmuted.
  • Talk to your kids about noise and how it can affect their learning so they can advocate for themselves.
  • Learn about the risk of hearing damage and why it’s important to protect their ears.


Have You Heard? Noise Can Affect Learning!

Background Noise and Classroom Design

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