Home News Background Noise Might Hinder Learning in Young Children

Background Noise Might Hinder Learning in Young Children

by Shelley D. Hutchins
written by

shutterstock_159434765A presentation at the recent gathering of the American Association for the Advancement of Science caught the attention of several news outlets, including Associated Press, The Latin Post and Herald-Whig. The panel of pediatric and communication sciences experts spoke about research showing how infants and young children get distracted by background noise.

Studies discussed included one on premature infants exposed to the constant whirring of an incubator fan, as well as how electronic background voices affect toddlers learning to understand speech. ASHA member Nan Bernstein Ratner, a professor of hearing and speech sciences at the University of Maryland, was one of the panelists. She told the Associated Press that she often suggests to parents of preschoolers that they turn off potentially distracting background noise like television, radio or electronic games and interact one-on-one with their child. For school-aged children, even just a sudden load noise like a car horn or a cough might cause them to miss an important point their teacher makes.

“We tend to think bustling environments and creating background noise is stimulating for kids,” she says, adding that “what’s stimulating on the part of the parent may not be for the child.”

All of the panelists agreed that distracting background noise might lead to developmental delays in speech and language, and even behavior issues for children who can’t differentiate between a teacher’s voice and classroom chatter.

Read about background noise in the classroom in these recent Leader articles:

Reverberation, background noise and distance from the speaker affect acoustics for all students. But especially those with any degree of hearing loss, central auditory processing disorders, and fluctuating hearing loss or those whose native language is not English.

A committee of the International Code Council formally adopted an amendment establishing a classroom acoustics standard in August, bringing a successful end to an ASHA-led effort that lasted several years.

With the addition of pages on classroom acoustics and speech-sound disorders, ASHA’s Practice Portal now has detailed content for 17 clinical and professional issues.



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Meredith February 24, 2016 - 9:47 pm

Does this include noise machines for use to help babies and toddlers sleep at night?

Shelley D. Hutchins February 25, 2016 - 11:56 am

The article and related studies focused on incubator fans for infants as well as background noise when a child is awake and playing or in class. It doesn’t discuss noise machines for sleeping, but it does state that soft background music without lyrics doesn’t seem to interfere.

Alice Sheehan February 26, 2016 - 5:31 pm

Shelley, what are your thoughts on the newest baby music contraption that is supposed to be inserted into the mother’s vagina to get the music closer to the baby while still in the womb. When I saw this on national TV last week, I actually thought it was a joke. I’m being told it is true!

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