Acoustic Regulations on Sound in Education


boy listening

In last week’s post about vocal fatigue, and it’s prevalence among teachers, we learnt about the importance of clear speech and listening in the classroom.


Education professionals claim that 75-80% of activity within a classroom revolves around vocal communication. It is thus important that within any room used for teaching, the acoustics are optimal.


According to the UK Listening Inventories for Education, there are seven different listening demands within classrooms:


  1. Listening when the teacher is not facing the listener
  2. Listening when the class is engaged in practical activities
  3. Listening to the teacher when he/ she moves around the room
  4. Listening when other children ask questions about work
  5. Listening when other adults are conversing in the room
  6. Listening to classmates while working on group work
  7. Listening where multimedia equipment is used and that causes background noise


Educators have to manage teaching in ways that accommodate these challenges and take into consideration that not all students have the same hearing abilities and levels of attentiveness. This may prove to be difficult if one considers the common sources of noise around the classroom.


Noise sources


Research collected by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) indicates that there are around 45,000 deaf children in the UK. High quality acoustics in schools are essential for all children to be able to listen and learn. The UK Government has recognized this demand at school and has, as a result, set minimum standards to meet the demands of all students. The Minister for Schools has stated that all new school buildings should comply with these standards.


The minimum standards for sound and acoustic regulation at school are set out in Building Bulletin 93 (BB93). The regulations apply to all new school buildings built since 2003 in England and Wales.


The NDCS requested Freedom of Information to 70 local schools in the UK to investigate whether new schools are complying with the minimum standards set out by the government. The key findings indicated that there is limited compliance among new schools – this is both unfortunate and detrimental to the education of our children.


Local authorities are not bothering to test buildings to ensure compliance, because testing is not mandatory. In other instances, there are insufficient funds in place in order to meet the requirements. Where acoustic testing is carried out, over half of the local authorities have schools that failed the testing. Overall, only 21% of local authorities stated with certainty that new schools in their area met government standards, making them fit for their intended use. Only 11% met the standard without resorting to ‘alternative performance standards’.


Numerous academic and audio technology institutions have released publications that state that the amplification of sound in classrooms increases the learning ability of students and leads to an increase in their scores.


In a study completed in Utah in 2002, three first grade classrooms, in which  85% of the children spoke English as a second language, were studied. In the 5 years prior to the installation of classroom amplification systems, only 44 to 48 percent of the students scored at the basic level or above on the Utah State Core Reading Test. After learning for seven months in amplified classrooms, 74 % of the students in the study scored at the basic level or above. This is an excellent return.


If the recommended acoustics and amplification tactics are put in place in schools, there will be noticeable results in the performance of students.


SoundforSchools offers a range of affordable audio technologies, such as the FrontRow Juno: an advanced classroom audio system that will ensure that each student is able to clearly hear all multimedia sound AND his or her teacher in the classroom. The Comfort Audio digital FM Personal Hearing system on the other hand, works well for hearing impaired students. Some hearing impaired students will not use hearing equipment, because of the stigma attached to it. Comfort Audio’s FM Hearing system has a user-friendly and attractive design, which will allow students with special needs to feel comfortable in the classroom.


We hope that you’ve found this article helpful and that you will raise the issue of upgrading classrooms in your area so that we may set the standard for local and national education.

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