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A Screening Approach for Classroom Acoustics Using Web-Based Listening Tests and Subjective Ratings

Journal article
Authors Kerstin Persson Waye
Lennart Magnusson
Sofie Fredriksson
Ilona Croy
Published in Plos One
Volume 10
Issue 1
Pages e0116572
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication year 2015
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Clinical Neuroscience and Rehabilitation
Institute of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Section of Occupational and environmental medicine
Pages e0116572
Language en
Subject categories Audiology


Background Perception of speech is crucial in school where speech is the main mode of communication. The aim of the study was to evaluate whether a web based approach including listening tests and questionnaires could be used as a screening tool for poor classroom acoustics. The prime focus was the relation between pupils' comprehension of speech, the classroom acoustics and their description of the acoustic qualities of the classroom. In total, 1106 pupils aged 13-19, from 59 classes and 38 schools in Sweden participated in a listening study using Hagerman's sentences administered via Internet. Four listening conditions were applied: high and low background noise level and positions close and far away from the loudspeaker. The pupils described the acoustic quality of the classroom and teachers provided information on the physical features of the classroom using questionnaires. In 69% of the classes, at least three pupils described the sound environment as adverse and in 88% of the classes one or more pupil reported often having difficulties concentrating due to noise. The pupils' comprehension of speech was strongly influenced by the background noise level (p<0.001) and distance to the loudspeakers (p<0.001). Of the physical classroom features, presence of suspended acoustic panels (p<0.05) and length of the classroom (p<0.01) predicted speech comprehension. Of the pupils' descriptions of acoustic qualities, clattery significantly (p<0.05) predicted speech comprehension. Clattery was furthermore associated to difficulties understanding each other, while the description noisy was associated to concentration difficulties. The majority of classrooms do not seem to have an optimal sound environment. The pupil's descriptions of acoustic qualities and listening tests can be one way of predicting sound conditions in the classroom.

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