Classroom noise harms teachers and children

Photo credit: Arthur Krijgsman

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

Pam Millett, writing a follow-up article in Canadian Audiologist to one written earlier discussing the impacts of noise on classroom teachers, states that “there is no question that students are also impacted by high external and internal noise levels.” She notes that the literature confirms the adverse effects of noise on students, citing my study with Dennis McCarthy that found elevated train noise intruded on children’s classroom learning.

She then mentions my follow-up study which found that the abatement of noise on the tracks and acoustical treatment of classroom ceilings resulted in children in classrooms exposed to train noise now reading at the same level as children on the quiet side of the building. And she continues by citing studies where students themselves reported the difficulty of learning in “poor acoustical conditions.”

With the literature clearly demonstrating the need for proper classroom acoustics, Millett lets us know that professional organizations and consumer groups, including Quiet Communities Inc., have written position papers calling for better acoustical design in classrooms.

Millet then asks why she is still listening to teachers complain about noise in their classrooms and asking to transfer to schools where noise in the classroom is not a problem. She wonders why additional research is needed when we are already aware of the problem and know how to ameliorate classroom noise.

As the researcher who conducted some of the studies cited above–studies that were done over forty years ago–I, too, would like to know why there are still classrooms where children and teachers are being exposed to noises, from within and without the classrooms themselves. No more research is needed to confirm a known problem. What is needed is the political will to address it.

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