Some noise can be helpful for monotonous tasks because it can increase our state of alertness. On the other hand, sharp noises can disrupt work that requires paying attention to more than one task at a time, requires more memory, and attention to frequent tasks. Therefore, we have to be sensitive to acoustics in the school, home, factory and home. The effects of noise on performance are complex. Here we present quotes from a paper compiled by the World Health Organization that summarizes the affects of noise on performance.
"Noise exposure consistently produces negative performance after effects. Deficits on tasks immediately following noise exposure have been found in proofreading and in persistence on challenging puzzles." (S. Cohen, 1980) "The uncontrollability of noise rather than the intensity of the noise appears to be the most critical variable." (S. Cohen et al., 1986)
"There are few studies that unequivocally show a relation between sound pressure levels of noise and productivity. Most of the studies are poorly designed and many studies find few if any negative effects. On the other hand, productivity has been shown to increase in noisy industrial settings when ear protection devices are worn." (Broadbent, 1971; A. Cohen, 1974; Smith, 1989)
To optimize our performance as students or professionals we need to manage the acoustics of our environment. Sweden set 30 dB as the maximum background noise level for a classroom. If we hear workers or family members around us talking at 50dB, then we could achieve a productive sound environment with earplugs or earmuffs that blocked out sound of 20dB of noise. One must take care to wear ear plugs correctly; a poor fit will lead to little benefit from the plug.
- World Health Organization, Community Noise, Edited by Birgitta Berglund & Thomas Lindvall Stockholm, Sweden, 1995.
- www.archoustics.com (c) Copyright 1996-2001 LEAGUE FOR THE HARD OF HEARING - Updated April 6, 2001.
- asa.aip.org Acoustical Society of America
- www.access-board.gov The Access Board
- www.acoustics.org "America's Need for Standard & Guidelines to Ensure Satisfactory Classroom Acoustics" by Dr. Lubman on CLASSROOM ACOUSTICS a resource for creating learning environments with desirable listening conditions published by the Acoustical Society of America.