Great News on the Acoustics Front
In March 2003, the ANSI Board of Standards Review (BSR) upheld the classroom acoustics standard against the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute's (ARI) appeal to withdraw the standard. The ARI contended that the acoustics standard was not in society's best interests. So far the Standard has been upheld through two appeals. Those of you who wrote letters in support of the standard should take special pride in this news. Your support has helped to defeat ARI's action. This is another important step toward victory of the classroom acoustics movement!
What is the Standard? The Standard for classroom acoustics would create a learning environment beneficial for all students in the USA, reducing background noise and reverberation (echo) that is so distracting to learners. It sets specific criteria for maximum background noise (35 decibels) and reverberation (0.6 to 0.7 seconds for unoccupied classrooms). These and other specifications are consistent with long-standing recommendations for good practice in acoustical design. The ANSI standard is available for purchase from the Acoustical Society of America (ASA's) online standards store or can be ordered from ASA at (631) 390-0215 (phone), (631) 390-0217 (fax), or firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail). Educational materials about the standard are also available.
Standing alone, the standard is voluntary unless referenced by a code, ordinance, or regulation. However, school systems may require compliance with the standard as part of their construction plans for new schools, thus making the design team responsible for addressing the issues. Parents may also find the standard useful as a guide to classroom accommodations under IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).
Because the ability to understand speech does not mature in children before the age of 15, children are less effective listeners than adults. Additionally, children have less experience in deriving meaning from context. A representative sample of children without hearing loss or other audiological disability, even when tested in above-average listening environments, could make out only 71% of a teacher's words. Those in the worst environments got only 30% of the message directed at them. Researchers have presented evidence that excessive noise levels impair a young child's speech perception, reading and spelling ability, behavior, attention, and overall academic performance.
The listening abilities of children with hearing impairments, particularly those with mild to moderate hearing loss, are even more affected by poor acoustics than are those of children whose hearing falls within normal ranges. A 1997 study of children with minimal sensorineural hearing loss showed lower scores for basic skills and communications testing and a high rate-37%-of retention in grade. In addition, these students functioned below normally hearing children in evaluations of behavior, energy, stress, social support, and self-esteem. Other studies have shown that children with learning and developmental disabilities perform less effectively in noisy spaces.
ANSI Standard 12 Chair Paul Schomer notes that "We will... continue with every effort to support this Standard, confident in the knowledge that it is technically correct, economically reasonable, feasible to implement, and most of all it is important and beneficial for the children of the US."
For more information on ANSI standards and classroom acoustics, go to www.parentsvoice.org .