Noise in schools

Noise in schools can be a major stress factor for teachers, with almost 80% of educators reporting it as a significant concern. Chronic noise in schools can lead to various negative effects, including hearing damage, stress, fatigue, distraction, and increased blood pressure.

What is noise in school?

Noise in school refers to any unwanted or disruptive sound within the school premises, whether in classrooms, corridors, playgrounds, or during break times. It encompasses a wide range of disturbances, from external sources like nearby construction to internal ones like students congregating during breaks. Excessive school noise can impact the overall academic environment, potentially hampering student concentration and well-being across various school settings.

What is noise in school?​

External and internal noise in schools

Noise from outside the school building can intrude into the classroom or learning space. Sources of this noise can include traffic, aircraft, industrial plants, and activity in schoolyards or from grounds maintenance. Schools can usually only control noise from the schoolyard and grounds. However, when a new school site is being considered, noise from commercial, industrial, and transportation noise sources can be taken into account. Noise that comes from the school building and into the classrooms can be stopped by making sure the building is designed well and by using noise control measures on the utilities and services.

Chronic noise

The noise level in school facilities has a significant negative impact on the mental health and well-being of young people, faculty, and staff. This includes impacts such as hearing damage, stress, fatigue, distraction, increased blood pressure, and sleep disruption. Several factors can contribute to noise in schools. These include noise generated from lab equipment, or other noisy activities like musical instruments or gym classes, poor acoustics in the building such as air conditioners, or a lack of sound-absorbing materials.

Noise and distracting behavior

Several studies have shown that noise level can be a significant factor in causing or exacerbating disruptive behavior in children. While there is no single solution to reducing noise and disruptive behavior in the classroom, a number of different strategies can help to create a more positive learning environment for all students.

Noise and distracting behavior

Excessive noise

At higher levels, excessive exposure to noise can result in hearing loss over time. Effects of noise include noise-induced hearing loss as one of the most common occupational hazards for those who work in loud or noisy environments.

The World Health Organization recommends that the background noise in school classes not exceed 35 decibels. Noise that is louder than this limit makes it harder to communicate and understand speech.

Noise pollution in schools denotes the regulated and excessive levels of unwanted sound within educational settings. Treated as a form of pollution, noise in schools is actively monitored, controlled, and, where necessary, reduced to maintain an optimal learning environment. Prolonged exposure to such disruptive sounds can adversely affect students’ concentration, comprehension, and overall well-being, making it imperative for institutions to adhere to sound standards and implement noise management strategies.

The effects of noise in schools primarily encompass cognitive disruptions, physical health concerns, emotional disturbances, communication barriers, and a compromised overall learning environment.

Excessive or chronic noise in educational settings can lead to diminished attention spans and learning difficulties, with students struggling to concentrate, comprehend, and retain information. Physically, prolonged exposure to high noise levels might not only cause hearing issues but can also induce stress, fatigue, and other physiological changes. Emotionally, such an environment can spur feelings of anxiety, irritability, and reduced motivation to engage in academic activities. One of the notable challenges is hampered communication, where both students and teachers face difficulties in conveying and understanding messages, often leading to misunderstandings. Additionally, the overall atmosphere of the school or classroom becomes less conducive to productive learning, with teachers straining their voices and students potentially engaging in negative peer interactions. Addressing noise pollution in schools is vital for a holistic educational experience.

What is noise in the classroom?

Classroom Noise is a subset of school noise, classroom noise specifically pertains to any unwanted or disruptive sound that interferes with the teaching and learning process within a classroom setting. This can include sounds like students talking out of turn, electronic devices ringing, or outside noise coming in through windows or doors. Continuous or high levels of classroom noise can hinder students’ ability to focus, understand lessons, and engage effectively with the material being taught.

What are examples of classroom noise?

Classroom noise encompasses disruptive sounds originating from student activities, furniture movement, electronic devices, teaching aids, and external intrusions. These can range from students conversing, the shuffling of papers, and the ringing of cell phones to the operating sounds of projectors and noises from neighboring classrooms or outside sources. Such noises, while commonplace, can become impediments to the optimal teaching and learning experience.

Noise levels

In most schools, the permissible sound exposure level of 85 decibels is rarely exceeded. The levels that teachers identify as excessive noise in the workplace range between 60 and 85 dBA. These noise levels should be designated as noise-inducing stress and influencing mental health.

65 dB
is that loud?

Is 60 to 85 dB a loud noise in schools?

Yes, noise levels between 60 dB and 85 dB are substantially louder than is considered harmful by noise research scientists for productive tasks like office work.

How loud is too loud for a classroom?

Classroom noise levels should ideally remain below 35 dB (A) for optimal teaching and learning conditions, as per WHO guidelines. Noise in the classroom encompasses not only internal disturbances, like students conversing or the hum of air conditioning units but also external sounds, such as nearby traffic or playground activities. Inadequate classroom acoustics can adversely impact a student’s comprehension, attention, and behavior. Enhancing classroom acoustics can be achieved through measures like installing carpets, adding soft wall materials, managing noisy equipment, and educating students on the importance of a quiet learning environment.

Classroom noise measurements

Reverberation time and background noise in a classroom

The design of a classroom is crucial. The classroom should be built to reduce basic sound levels and reverberation times (RT60) in rooms intended for educational purposes above those desired for other mental activities (by 30–45 dBA) and reverberation times (by 0.4 seconds).

STI Speach Tranmission Index

Communication (speaking and comprehending) is at the heart of all measurable learning processes. The speech intelligibility index (STI) is a parameter that measures the quality of speech transmission. The better the speech transmission, the less noise there is inside schools.

American National Standards Institute

ANSI Standard S12.60 for Classroom Acoustics sets maximum permissible levels for both reverberation times (RT 60) and background noise levels in classrooms to ensure speech intelligibility: 

  • the maximum RT 60 in a classroom is 0.6 seconds if the room is less than 10,000 cubic feet.
  • if the room is between 10,000 and 20,000 cubic feet, the maximum RT 60is 0.7 seconds. Background level in the same classroom is limited to 35 decibels.

The acoustical performance and design standards apply when designing all new small-to-moderate sized classrooms. They should also be applied as much as possible when renovating spaces.

Classroom noise meters

If you are concerned about noise levels in your classroom or school, one option is to use a classroom noise meter. These devices measure the noise levels and reverberation within a space, allowing you to take steps to improve the acoustic environment and mitigate any negative effects on learning and productivity.

Room acoustics parameters can be measured with a professional meter, such as a Class 1 sound level meter SV 971A or Class 2 sound level meter SV 973 with RT60 and STIPA options installed.

Classroom noise meters

How can we control noise pollution in schools?

Studies conducted by an acoustical society point out a few ways to reduce noise levels in schools:

  • acoustic treatments like sound-absorbing materials on walls and ceilings
  • better building acoustics including ventilation systems 
  • using earplugs or other noise-canceling devices
  • scheduling breaks and recess times throughout the day
  • having quiet areas in the school where students can go to focus or study


Earplugs are a type of personal protective equipment that can be used to reduce noise exposure. They come in different sizes, materials, and shapes. They can also be custom-fitted to the individual wearer. When selecting earplugs for use in a school setting, it is important to choose a product that is comfortable and durable. It is also important to choose a product that is easy to use.

Noise-canceling headphones

Noise-canceling headphones are another type of personal protective equipment that can be used to occupational noise reduction. These devices work by creating a sound wave that cancels out noise, making it easier for you to focus on the task at hand.

Sound-proofing materials

There are many different types of sound-proofing materials that can be used to reduce noise levels in a space. Environmental research data collected shows that more noise can be generated by other equipment, for example, an air conditioner or even aircraft noise. Materials such as panels, tiles, and mats, can be used as insulation.

Sound-proofing materials


Barriers can be used to block or deflect noise from space. Research focusing on noise in the classroom shows that high levels of outside noise can also contribute to the total noise in school.  Physical barriers like walls and doors can be effective at reducing noise levels, while other types of barriers, such as acoustic curtains and baffles, can be used to improve the overall acoustics of a space. 

Noise in schools: Key Takeaways

  1. Noise in schools refers to unwanted or disruptive sounds within the school premises, impacting classrooms, corridors, playgrounds, and break times.
  2. Sources of school noise include external factors like traffic, aircraft, and industrial activity, as well as internal factors like noisy equipment, musical instruments, and poor building acoustics.
  3. Chronic noise in schools can negatively affect the mental health and well-being of students, faculty, and staff, leading to hearing damage, stress, fatigue, distraction, and sleep disruption.
  4. Excessive noise exposure over time can result in hearing loss.
  5. The World Health Organization recommends that background noise in school classes should not exceed 35 decibels for effective communication.
  6. Classroom noise can hinder teaching and learning, including disturbances like students talking out of turn, electronic devices ringing, and outside noise.
  7. Noise levels between 60 dB and 85 dB are considered loud in schools and can induce stress.
  8. Ideally, classroom noise levels should remain below 35 dB for optimal teaching and learning conditions.
  9. Effective classroom acoustics can be achieved through measures such as installing carpets, using soft wall materials, and managing noisy equipment.
  10. The speech intelligibility index (STI) measures speech transmission quality, with better speech transmission indicating less noise in schools.
  11. ANSI Standard S12.60 sets maximum permissible levels for classroom acoustics to ensure speech intelligibility.
  12. Classroom noise meters can be used to measure noise levels and reverberation, helping to improve the acoustic environment.
  13. Strategies to control noise pollution in schools include using sound-absorbing materials, improving building acoustics, providing quiet areas for students, and using personal protective equipment like earplugs and noise-canceling headphones.
  14. Sound-proofing materials like panels, tiles, and mats can be used to reduce noise levels.
  15. Barriers such as walls, doors, acoustic curtains, and baffles can block or deflect noise in school spaces.
  16. Various methods are available for noise measurement and control, including the use of sound level meters.

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