If you have ever tried to read or study in a loud environment, you likely understand that learning is made more difficult when your surroundings are noisy. While there are times when tuning out background noise is possible, for children this is often not the case.
Excess noise negatively impacts a child’s ability to comprehend and process language, which impedes their learning abilities and puts children in loud environments at an academic disadvantage. Below are a few ways noisy environments affect the learning process of children.
Though stimulation is sometimes believed to be beneficial for learning and productivity, children are especially prone to overstimulation which can have the opposite effect. If a child is overwhelmed by a sensory experience such as excess noise, they will not be able to focus as easily as they might be in a quiet environment. Also, children may be stimulated differently than adults, so imposing a stimulus on a child could negate any positive attempts to facilitate growth and learning.
In addition to the overstimulation aspect, being exposed to too much noise can impede the ability to manage time. Even if an individual recognizes that excess noise will make their attempts to learn more difficult, they will still fail to appropriately delegate their time. This effect is especially notable in children, who may not yet have an effective structure for time management. The distraction of noise affects both the ability to process information and the ability to properly perceive the passage of time.
Learning a language takes significant effort, and for most individuals, being able to hear and integrate new words and sentence structures into their own vocabulary plays a major role in learning. When brief, sudden sounds interrupt conversations and drown out words or short phrases, mature brains will often fill in the gap with a logical replacement, sometimes without the individual even realizing that they missed the actual speech. The reconstruction of speech is a learned ability. Young, inexperienced brains do not possess this capability, so missing a word or phrase can completely alter and disrupt their understanding of a sentence.
In one study, young children were exposed to new words, and only when the background noise was quieter than the words being spoken could they learn them. A different part of their student concluded that children could learn words in a noisy environment only if they had been previously exposed to them.
Another study found that students in a quiet school performed better in terms of academic work and language proficiency than students in a similar school located beside an airport. The researchers believe that, in addition to the element of distraction, the noise could impact the teachers’ willingness to convey information as clearly and as in-depth as they might in a quieter environment. These studies as well as others demonstrate the negative effect of noisy environments on learning, especially in regards to language assimilation.
The distraction of noise impacts concentration, time management, and language processing skills, which altogether make learning for children in noisy environments very difficult. Because of the effect noise has on the learning process, it is advised by experts that schools and educational establishments make an effort to minimize the amount and volume of excess noise in order to promote more effective learning environments.