Noise pollution: children need better protection

Noise pollution: children need better protection

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Noise at school and loud music not only damage hearing

The noise exposure of children is the focus of this year's day against noise, which not only deals with impending hearing impairment, but also the negative effects on concentration and learning ability as well as other impending health consequences.

"Children and adolescents often suffer from noise - sometimes with serious consequences", said the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) on the occasion of the day against noise on April 29. In many cases, the noise level in school is so high that not only does the ability to concentrate suffer, but also hearing can be affected. "Children often seem to make little noise, but even the level in a classroom can be stressful, the break hall is even more violent when it is cold or raining," Prof. Dr. Brigitte Schulte-Fortkamp, ​​acoustic specialist at the TU Berlin and board member of the German Society for Acoustics (DEGA) and head of the action day in Germany quoted by the news agency "dpa".

Bad acoustics in many classrooms
According to the German Society for Acoustics, noise in schools and break rooms can also be significantly increased due to incorrect construction methods. The shouting, laughing and screaming, which can reach up to 80 decibels anyway, is additionally reinforced by unfavorable room reverb, reports Prof. Schulte-Fortkamp. “There is a lot you can improve. We wrote to 800 architects for a competition to design a quiet classroom, ”said the expert in the“ dpa ”message. According to DEGA, good classroom acoustics is "an essential prerequisite for successful teaching." DIN 18041 (audibility in small to medium-sized rooms) clearly defines the requirements for classrooms, but "many classrooms in Germany - serious estimates are clear more than 50 percent - do not meet these requirements. These classrooms are "reverberant" and the language is difficult to understand due to long reverberation times.

Noise affects learning conditions
As a result of the insufficient classroom acoustics, according to DEGA, a vicious circle often arises, in which the increasing noise level results in less attention from the pupils, which in turn causes more disruption to teaching, which in turn increases the noise level. In the end there is a significantly reduced work and learning performance. Acoustics specialist Schulte-Fortkamp told “dpa” about a study from 2005 that had pointed to a deterioration in learning ability and memory function in the event of continuous noise. In addition, in 2014 a long-term study came to the conclusion that children from schools that were exposed to aircraft noise had poorer reading performance than children from schools in quieter surroundings. Ten decibels more noise would have been one month behind in reading performance. "That may not seem so relevant at first, but the important thing is: You take this delay with you to the next school level, it continues," Schulte-Fortkamp is quoted by the "dpa".

Every eighth child with reduced hearing
Noise can not only impair language development, reading ability and the mental performance of children, but young people in Germany often also report tinnitus-like ringing in the ears after heavy noise pollution, reports the Federal Environment Agency. Around every eighth child does not correctly perceive at least one tone frequency in the hearing test. Although the causes of this are largely unknown, listening to music that is too loud - for example through headphones - is often blamed for this. The number of adolescents in Germany suffering from tinnitus symptoms is increasing in a worrying manner. “If you regularly listen to loud music on headphones, you risk incurable hearing damage,” warns the UBA. In addition, discotheques and clubs also have a large proportion of hearing loss among young people.

Workshops with the "noise case"
At this year's day against noise, the Federal Environment Agency and the German Society for Acoustics, especially under the motto "Noise - completely annoying!", Address children and young people in order to raise their awareness of noise and its consequences. For example, workshops with the “Lärmkoffer” from the DEGA Lärm work group are offered at interested schools. The one-day campaign takes place on site at the school and the topics "hearing, perception of noise, noise, effects of noise" are conveyed in a playful manner and with the help of the noise case, according to DEGA. The noise case can then be borrowed from the school for a few weeks to use the sound level meters, tuning forks, oversized silicone ears and other materials to educate students about the consequences of noise pollution. (fp)

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Photo credit: S. Hofschlaeger /

Author and source information

Video: Why Noise Pollution Is More Dangerous Than We Think. The Backstory. The New Yorker


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