The Book of Acoustics

5.0 Benefits of acoustic design

5.4 Listening & Learning

The ability to sit still for extended periods of time while listening, especially crucial for students of all ages, is directly influenced by environmental factors such as distracting or irritating sound. Being able to hear a lecturer or teacher clearly without distraction is a prerequisite for effective learning, and yet educational environments commonly face the same challenges as workspaces; namely, excessive noise and poorly designed acoustics.

Teachers also risk damaging their vocal chords and hearing when regularly exposed to high levels of sound. A large-scale study by the Institute for Interdisciplinary School Research in Germany found that more than 80% of teachers surveyed reported experiencing stress from noise generated by students. Students with special needs and learning disorders such as autism are particularly susceptible to poor acoustics. Many countries mandate the provision of specialised learning environments for students with learning disorders, but fail to take into account the impact of sound, which can contribute to anxiety, stress and antisocial tendencies.

In a recent study, the reduction of acoustic reverberation in UK classrooms led to improved behaviour, information retention and engagement by all pupils, as well as less stress among teachers.

A well designed acoustic environment leads to:

  • Improved ability to focus
  • Lower cognitive stress
  • Fewer distractions and interruptions
  • Better information retention
  • Improved reading comprehension
  • Better short term memory
  • Reduced risk of hearing loss
  • Minimised vocal strain
  • Reduced stress for those with special needs

The Book of Acoustics

This is a handbook for architects and interior designers who want to create acoustically beautiful spaces that make people feel happier, healthier and more productive.