Simulated Classroom Used to Study Effects of Noise and Reverberation on Learning

Article ID: 576904

Released: 18-May-2011 6:00 AM EDT

Source Newsroom: American Institute of Physics (AIP)

Newswise — College Park, Md. (May 18, 2011) -- Noisy classrooms aren’t just bad for harried teachers’ nerves—they can significantly affect the ability of students to listen and learn. Researchers at the Boys Town National Research Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska, have built a unique simulated classroom to help measure the scope of those effects—and how they can be avoided. They’ll discuss what they’ve found at the 161st annual Acoustical Society of America meeting, which runs from May 23–27 in Seattle.

The model classroom—consisting of a desk at which test subjects are seated surrounded by an array of five LCD monitors and loudspeakers—was devised by architectural acoustician Daniel Valente and audiology researcher Dawna Lewis of the Boys Town Listening and Learning Lab (

In a recent study, the researchers tested young and older elementary students as well as adults in the classroom. Each subject listened to an 11-minute play read just by a teacher and broadcast over the monitor at the head of the class, or read by the teacher and four students and played on all five monitors; the amounts of ambient noise and reverberation in the room were varied. Afterward, the subjects answered a series of questions to show how well they understood what they heard.

Although increasing levels of classroom noise and reverberation reduced the comprehension of all subjects, the youngest students—8-year-olds—were the most adversely affected. “The combination of the difficult task as well as increased background noise and reverberation led to the younger children having a harder time following the story,” Valente says. The results, he adds, illustrate the importance of designing classrooms that reduce reverberation and ambient noise, and suggest that the standard practice of testing children in a sound booth with a single loudspeaker “may not be sufficient to identify problems students may be having in real classrooms with multiple talker locations, quick-changing talkers, and the interaction between background noise and the acoustical environment.”

The presentation, “Effects of excessive noise and reverberation on listening and learning in a simulated classroom,” by D. L. Valente et al. will be at 3:05 p.m. on Monday, May 23 in Grand Ballroom B of the Sheraton Seattle Hotel.

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE 161ST ASA MEETING The Sheraton Seattle Hotel is located at 1400 Sixth Ave., Seattle, Washington, 98101. The hotel main numbers are: 1-206-621-9000 and toll-free: 1-800-325-3535. USEFUL LINKSMain meeting website:
Searchable index:
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ASA's World Wide Press Room ( will be updated with nearly 50 lay-language papers, which are 300-1200 word summaries of presentations written by scientists for a general audience and accompanied by photos, audio, and video.

ASA will grant free registration to credentialed full-time journalists and professional freelance journalists working on assignment for major news outlets. If you are a reporter and would like to attend, contact Charles E. Blue (, 301-209-3091), who can also help with setting up interviews and obtaining images, sound clips, or background information.


The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) is the premier international scientific society in acoustics devoted to the science and technology of sound. Its 7,000 members worldwide represent a broad spectrum of the study of acoustics. ASA publications include The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (the world's leading journal on acoustics), Acoustics Today magazine, books, and standards on acoustics. The society also holds two major scientific meetings each year. For more information about ASA, visit our website at


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