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The impact of noise on primary school students

Solutions for reducing classroom noise

All of us are aware that the world, in general, is a noisy place – and getting noisier. Noise has made its way into our streets, suburbs, libraries, hospitals, and even classrooms.

Sit back and think about your primary school classroom. What do you hear?

  • Do you hear the hum of the lights?
  • Does the squeak of the chairs make your cringe?
  • Can you visualise the desks creaking?
  • What about the noise from the adjacent classrooms and hallways?
  • Do you have to raise your voice to be heard over other classroom noise?

You have just had an insight into how noisy a classroom can be, and why primary students may be distracted or struggling to understand their lessons.

Research shows how kids struggle with background noise

New research published in the Journal of Neuroscience tracked the abilities of adults and children (aged 6-9 years) to focus on a speaker in a noisy environment.

Using magnetoencephalography – a non-evasive test that maps brain activity – scientists have analysed how well subjects were able to understand speech in a multi-talker environment. The team were able to record activity in the auditory cortex, which is the part of the brain that tracks speech.

The research showed that children are far more sensitive to noise. They struggle to separate a speaker’s voice from background noise – and the louder the noise, the more challenging it is for children to follow the speaker. The results also showed that children had trouble following the syllable rate despite increasing levels of background noise.

From a neurological standpoint, these findings mean it’s harder for kids to follow a leading voice – such as a teacher – and learn in an environment with noise, even when it’s not that loud! The results suggest that primary students may have a more difficult time following speech or instructions as classroom noise rises. Worryingly, difficultly deciphering phonemes means students will struggle to learn to read.

Further research shows that 45.3% of children 5 to 12 years of age have trouble differentiating words that sound similar (for example, bed and bread) when background noise is present.

Due to background noise and poor classroom acoustics, 90% of grade one primary students are not hearing all of their teachers’ words, and one in six words are not understood by the average grade one student.


What’s more, in regular classrooms, only 9% of grade one students, 40% of grade three students, and 52% of grade six students have optimal classroom acoustic conditions for learning purposes (Bradley and Sato, 2004).

How does noise affect learning?

Noise can interfere with understanding and attention in the classroom, which can impact oral language skills, literacy skills, behaviour and motivation.

  • Students with weak oral language skills are unable to fill in the blanks when they don’t hear information in the classroom.
  • Noise limits the number of verbal interactions in the classroom.
  • Less material is taught due to the need to spend time reviewing information not heard.
  • Teachers are at higher risk for developing a hoarse voice or chronic laryngitis because they often need to raise their voice when speaking in a noisy classroom.

How to reduce noise in a classroom

Not all learning activity has to be quiet. But while there is a need for collaboration and talking, a quieter environment tends to facilitate critical subjects like reading and maths. Avenue Interior Systems have a range of acoustic solutions ideally suited for educational spaces.

Calando Booths can create a little niche for students who need to focus on a particular quiet task. The  teacher or teacher aide can sit with the student to work with them without visual and audial distractions.

Calando Desk is a small desk divider that slides onto the desk to separate one student from another, reducing noise distractions and allowing greater focus.

Calando Panels are an acoustic solution for the whole classroom. The panel can be placed on walls and ceilings to absorb sound bouncing off desks, floors and walls.

ECO Wall is another complete classroom solution for walls and ceilings. ECO Wall not only absorbs sound, it can also double as a pinboard, allowing you to continue to display artwork and learning aids easily.

Talk to Avenue about soundproofing solutions for education

The above examples are only a small sample of the Avenue Interior Systems educational range.

To learn more about our acoustic solutions for education, contact the Avenue team today on 1300 827 177.

We can Design Your Silence and provide you with a custom acoustic solution.