To hear and be heard
Verbal communication is essential to learning. That is why it is so important to ensure that learning environments make it easier to hear what you need and want to hear, and minimise disturbance.
Many educational premises today have major acoustic faults, with high noise levels and lots of “echo” (long reverberation times). The conversations people want to hear are inaudible and the level of distracting noise is excessive.
At the same time, optimal use has to be made of resources, and those responsible for budgets have to set priorities. It is therefore crucial to ascertain information on the activities, which are to take place in various rooms.
The educational sector should set high standards
Education is fundamental for the development of both the individual and society as a whole. Consequently, when it comes to the working environment, the education sector should set high standards. The learning environment has a major affect on a person’s ability to absorb information or teach.
The teacher passes knowledge on to students through speech. The spoken word allows us to develop social contacts, and to acquire and deliver valuable information in dialogue with others. A good acoustic environment benefits teaching and learning alike. It provides teachers, students and pre-school/day-care staff with the best possible environment to support their educational ambitions.
Optimal technical solutions can create an acoustic environment that supports indoor verbal communication.
Studies show the extent to which students have difficulty understanding spoken language, which leads them to loose concentration during lessons. Especially sensitive groups are those with permanent or temporary hearing impairment (temporary hearing loss may be caused by something as minor as a cold), sight impairment, pupils who experience difficulties concentrating, those with speech and language difficulties and those learning or speaking a second language.
Other studies reveal how teachers suffer throat problems because they have to raise their voices above high noise levels. Problems with tinnitus – whistling and other constant sounds in the ear – are common among educational staff.
Noise, unwanted sound, is disturbing and irritating, especially during intellectually demanding work such as study. The more complex the task, the more disturbing noise can be.
Lower sound levels reduce distraction, whilst also removing the need for raised voices. We simply become quieter in a quiet environment, and look after our sensitive vocal cords.
We live in a rapidly changing knowledge-based society, and it has become increasingly important to educate ourselves throughout our lives. Educational premises need to be adapted to suit not only children but students of all ages who may have hearing and sight problems. At the same time, the character of educational environments has changed along with new teaching methods. For example, it is now increasingly common that flexible, adaptable rooms are shared by both large and small groups. In such an environment, voices and other sounds spread easily, with working groups often disturbing each other. Good room acoustics help make this way of working easier.
The optimum acoustic environment includes the right reverberation time and low levels of background noise, which leads to good speech intelligibility. In most premises comfortable room acoustics depend directly on a short reverberation time. Speech intelligibility is the amount of speech heard and understood by a listener in a room, and can be quantified both subjectively and objectively. The design of the room and the location of absorbent material also affects the perception of sound. A reverberation time that is too long causes late sound reflections, which means that a word has insufficient time to die out before the next word reaches the listener. The absorption of low-frequency noise is particularly important for people with impaired hearing.
Today’s knowledge of acoustics and the efficient solutions available mean that good acoustics are by no means a luxury. However, it can certainly feel luxurious when you replace a poor environment with a good one.
Sound-absorbent suspended ceilings (acoustic ceilings) and wall panels (wall absorbers) are extremely efficient ways of creating effective and pleasant learning environments. These tools help reduce sound propagation, cut down disturbing sound reflections and lower the sound level.
You need to view the whole educational facility as an integrated environment, with good acoustics everywhere that students and teachers spend any time. This is a relatively simple way to help make them become calmer and perform better.