Background Noise: The Hidden Culprit

By Janet DesGeorges

One morning, while my six year old daughter and I were playing a game, she jumped up, ran to the kitchen and started playing with the oven timer. When I asked her what she was doing, she said, "I'm turning off the buzzer". The buzzer, however, had not been going off! I then realized our refrigerator, (a slightly antiquated model) had just "turned on" and was humming away! I might not of thought much of this incident except for some interesting information I had been coming across in recent months.

When a parent asked me last year to give her some information on background noise, I had never really done any research on the subject. As I started looking at the information available, I was amazed to discover the impact background noise has on children who are using hearing aids. When we think of our children's hearing loss, and how it is tested in a quiet sound booth at the audiologists office, we know that is about as quiet a room our children are ever in! The real world is a very noisy place. (Especially at my house). Though hearing aids help to amplify sound, they amplify both the background noise and the speech signal. This problem is especially significant in the classroom setting. There has been much research done on the acoustical environment in the classroom and the impact it has, not only for children who are hearing impaired, but for all children.

There are several solutions to pursue to make sure that your child can have access to the information being presented in an academic setting: Amplifying the voice of the teacher (using the FM system), acoustically treating the classroom (acoustical ceiling tile, carpeting, sound absorbing surfaces on the walls), choosing a classroom away from busy streets, next to the gym, or other loud exterior noise problems. There is much research and information on this subject! If you are interested in learning more, please feel free to e-mail us with your questions and we will share as many resources as possible. We are in the process of building a research section on this web site that among other issues will include articles on acoustical adaptations.


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