Noise Affects Learning

Noise has also been shown to affect learning ability. In 1975 Bronzaft collaborated on a study of children in a school near an elevated train track that showed how exposure to noise can affect children’s reading ability. Half of the students in the study were in classrooms facing the train track and the other half were in classrooms in the school’s quieter back section. The findings, published in the December 1975 issue of Environment and Behavior, were that students on the quieter side performed better on reading tests, and by sixth grade they were a full grade point ahead of the students in the noisier classrooms.

Bronzaft and the school principal persuaded the school board to have acoustical tile installed in the classrooms adjacent to the tracks. The Transit Authority also treated the tracks near the school to make them less noisy. A follow-up study published in the September 1981 issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that children’s reading scores improved after these interventions were put in place. “After we did the study, more than twenty-five other studies were done examining the effect of noise on children’s learning ability,” Bronzaft says. “They have all found the same thing to be true: noise can affect children’s learning.”

–Ron Chepesiuk, “Decibel Hell: The Effect of Living in a Noisy World” on Environmental Health Perspectives 113.1 (2005): A34–A41.

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