Classroom Background Noise Limits Learning

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COLLEGE PARK, Md., Oct. 31 (UPI) — Student test scores can suffer negative effects from subtle classroom noise, such as the humming of the air conditioning and heating systems, researcher say.

In a study of classrooms presented at the 162nd meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, fifth-grade students were found to have lower reading test scores in classrooms with higher background noise.

The culprit was not nearby traffic noises or occasional outbursts from unruly students, researchers found, but the almost unnoticeable yet constant drone of heating and air conditioning units, a release from the American Institute of Physics said Monday.

“Our research shows that many students are forced to learn and teachers are required to work in conditions that simply do not aid in the learning experience,” said Lauren M. Ronsse, explaining the constant background noise could mask sounds, muddle oral communications and interfere with comprehension during instructions.

“The results from these studies indicate that elementary schools should be built with building mechanical systems that are certainly quieter than 40 decibels in the classrooms to optimize student learning in the reading comprehension and language subject areas,” Ronsse said.

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