We all know the situation. You’re having a conversation in a crowded bar, restaurant or home. It’s loud, but despite the rising level of noise you’re able to stay with the conversation.
Scientists call it the “cocktail party effect,” the brain’s ability to focus auditory attention on the speaker while filtering out surrounding noise.
But the trouble is, only adults can do this. In day-care facilities, where children all over the world spend many hours a day, too much noise affects learning. Recent studies suggest more attention to acoustic design can help.
Loud and (anything but) clear
It should be said that noise is not a new discovery when it comes to day-care institutions. A 2018 report from NFA found that more than 70% of childcare workers said they are disturbed by noise more than 25% of their working hours. A quarter of those answering said they have to protect themselves against noise during more than 25% of their time at work with ear plugs or other tools.
Another more recent study in Denmark (in Danish), titled “Indoor climate in day-care institutions” had similar findings after looking at acoustics and several other variables in 20 different day-care institutions. The results? One-third of the evaluated rooms did not comply with acoustic requirements of the Danish building code.
Acoustics impact on language and development
“Acoustics in day-care is particularly important because these small children are still learning the language and therefore cannot yet understand speech in noisy environments to the same extent as adults can. They are simply missing out”, says Mads Bolberg, senior acoustical specialist, ROCKWOOL Group.
According to Bolberg, the acoustic conditions of a room must be analysed in relation to the size of the room and the number of children in it. And building regulations should reflect these factors.
What can day-cares do?
Bolberg says two things can have a big impact on sound conditions in a daycare space. One of them is to simply reduce the number of children in the rooms, which is understandably difficult in high population areas with high demand for day-care. The other is much easier—sound proof insulation in the walls and sound absorption materials on the walls and ceiling.
This will not only help improve the acoustical environment but also other elements of the indoor climate such as the temperature and humidity, which will also benefit both the kids and the staff.
So if a noisy daycare is the issue and building more rooms with fewer kids isn’t a realistic option, investigate your options for the walls and ceilings—kids are noisy, but we shouldn’t let it affect their wellbeing and learning.