Why Do We Make It Difficult For Students To Hear In Class?

November 02, 1998

November 2, 1998--Many children, especially those with hearing or learning disabilities, are facing unnecessary difficulties hearing their teachers because of inferior classroom acoustics. An alarmingly large proportion of classrooms suffers from high amounts of reverberation and background noise, making it difficult even for those students with healthy hearing to perceive speech. Although many school officials are unaware of it, the solutions to improving speech intelligibility have been well known for decades and have been proven in offices, theaters and even the New York City subway system.

The topic of classroom acoustics will be addressed in a workshop to take place in New York City this February. Entitled "Eliminating Acoustical Barriers to Learning in Classrooms," the workshop will be held on February 26-27, 1999 at the City University of New York Graduate Center, 33 West 42nd Street, New York, NY. Intended for educators, administrators, architects, and others, the workshop will provide information on reducing classroom noise and reverberation as barriers to effective learning. The workshop is organized by the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), the City University of New York, and the National Council of Acoustical Consultants.

Measurements of several classrooms in everyday use have revealed acoustical conditions that permit less than half of the speech to be understood. Generally, the problems are caused by improper wall, ceiling, and floor finishes and by noisy ventilation equipment.

Researchers will discuss how to identify, diagnose and solve acoustical problems in classrooms and other listening and learning spaces. They will present the demographics of the classroom acoustics problem, namely the number, type and ages of students at risk. Suggestions on how to identify students at high risk, such as those with mild hearing loss, with limited English proficiency, or with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), will be presented. Researchers will discuss recommended acoustic criteria for architects to help them design classrooms with intelligible speech . Finally, they will offer practical solutions to the administrative, financial and political obstacles to implementing good classroom acoustics.

Registration for the workshop is $100 and includes lunch on Saturday. For registration information, contact Elaine Moran of ASA at 516-576-2360. Reporters who wish to cover the workshop may get complimentary registration by contacting John Erdreich at 973-731-7002.

With nearly 7000 members, the Acoustical Society of America is the largest scientific organization in the United States devoted to acoustics. The National Council of Acoustical Consultants is a worldwide professional organization, based in New Jersey, whose members consult on sound, noise, vibration, and hearing to architects, engineers, and attorneys. The City University of New York Speech and Hearing Department conducts research in the hearing sciences, and trains clinicians in the practice of audiology and speech and language pathology.

WORKSHOP INFORMATION ON THE WEB: Soon to be posted on the ASA Web Page (http://asa.aip.org ); for specific URL contact Elaine Moran of ASA at For further information, please contact John Erdreich, Ostergaard Acoustical Associates 973-731-7002,

Elaine Moran, Acoustical Society of America 516-576-2360, elaine@aip.org

"Acoustical Society Sounds a Warning on Air Conditioners,"
by Doug Smith, LA Times, December 3, 1997
"In Classroom Dronings, Johnny Can't Hear, Either,"
by Jeffrey Chuang, Dallas Morning News, June 30, 1997
"Gym Noise Could Pose Harm to P.E. Teachers,"
by Stephen Strauss, Toronto Globe & Mail, June 26, 1997

SOME WRITEUPS ON CLASSROOM ACOUSTICS RESEARCH: Pilot Studies of Speech Communication In Elementary School Classrooms
Carl C. Crandell, University of Florida et al.

Revisiting Speech Interference in Classrooms and Considering Some Possible Solutions
Michel Picard, University of Montreal et al.

America's Need for Standards and Guidelines to Ensure Satisfactory Classroom Acoustics
David Lubman, David Lubman and Associates

Impact of Hearing Loss on Children in Typical School Environments
Peggy Nelson, University of Maryland School of Medicine
For further information, please contact John Erdreich, Ostergaard Acoustical Associates 973-731-7002, acoustic@I-2000.com

Elaine Moran, Acoustical Society of America 516-576-2360

American Institute of Physics

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