About 6 months ago, we posted a blog on kids going back to school, where we talked primarily about the importance of classroom arrangement and learning aids for hard of hearing students. Under the Classroom Tips section, we listed proper seating arrangements, light and sound sources, and education resource ideas as ways to improve comprehension and retention. This time, we want to focus a little more on the acoustics side of things.

As usual, ASHA provides a good summary of what classroom acoustics is, why its important, and who it affects:

“A student’s ability to hear and understand what is being said in the classroom is vital for learning. Unfortunately, this ability can be reduced in a noisy classroom. Poor classroom acoustics occur when the background noise and/or the amount of reverberation in the classroom are so high that they interfere with learning and teaching.”

The Acoustical Society of America goes into a bit more depth, and supplies some helpful pictures. It also cites a few important studies.

One such study focused on a public school district in Iowa. In this district, research showed that “…elementary school children tended to have lower scores on reading comprehension performance tests if they were learning in classrooms serviced by noisier mechanical cooling systems (Ronsse and Wang, 2010).”

A Typical Classroom

Also on the study page of the Acoustical Society of America:

The standard classroom.

Of course, not every classroom will be the same, but this picture offers a view of everything that helps and hurts classroom acoustics and learning, matters both teachers and students will have to contend with every day.


Figuring out the ideal layout of a classroom is not easy. It’s further complicated when you realize how little control you sometimes have over what can be added, adapted, or changed. So It’s important to not only have the correct practical information, but to also know your rights and resources.

Let’s turn to ASHA again, where the American National Standard on Classroom Acoustics is discussed:

“The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), along with the efforts of the U.S. Access Board, Acoustical Society of America, created the ANSI S12.60-2002, Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements and Guidelines for Schools standard. Through specific design requirements and acoustical performance criteria, the standard tries to create a classroom environment that optimizes speech understanding.”
Though compliance with the ANSI standard is voluntary, it’s a good resource to have in your pocket, and a starting point in realizing the best possible learning environment for your child.

Further resources:

– ANDI Standard S12.60 in depth

– “About the Classroom Acoustics Rulemaking” from the United States Access Board: “The Board is undertaking rule making to supplement the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines to address acoustics in classrooms.”

– ASHA’s list of resources

– Acoustical Society of America standards and booklets