Adults demand clear speech, students require it 

December 28, 2012 

Editor’s note: Much has changed since this was written in 2012. We have updated it to include additional resources.  

Student shouldn’t have to strain to listen.

The next time one of your students says, ‘I didn’t hear you,’ it’s likely the truth.  

While students spend 75% of their day listening, nearly all – 97% – of classrooms fail to meet the acoustical standard for a good learning environment. 

Studies show children need to be within 6 feet of the teacher for maximum intelligibility, something that isn’t realistic given class sizes and the fact that teachers often move around the room while instructing. Students seated in the back of a classroom may miss up to 30% of what their teacher says. 

Most of us have been in sessions where a presenter is difficult to hear. When I’m in that situation, I’ll strain to listen for a few minutes and slowly move into a passive listening mode, where I’ll check out the slides for bullet points. But eventually I’ll give up and start checking email or just doodle. 

Students face similar situations all the time, especially younger children who are typically plagued with ear maladies. On average, 30% of elementary (K-6) students fail a 15dB test, mostly due to ear infections.  

Hearing loss is increasingly an issue for older students as well with an estimated 1 in 5 teens experiencing some form of hearing loss, according to the American Osteopathic Association. 

Because children do not have the same life and language experiences as adults, they cannot “fill in the gaps” with the missing words.  

Better listening through classroom audio 

I’m sure that if you found yourself in the session described above, you would ask the presenter to speak louder or you’d move closer to the front. Children simply will not do that and are more likely to nudge a fellow student to ask what was just said. 

This is a common problem for most teachers. But there’s a simple solution. Lightspeed’s instructional audio is a wireless microphone system that clarifies the teacher’s voice and evenly distributes sound throughout the learning environment, improving student audibility and intelligibility. A seminal body of research – Improving Classroom Acoustics (ICA) Studies – found 95% of students said instructional audio made it easier to hear their teacher and helped them listen better.  

Research over the past four decades is conclusive: Teachers using a classroom microphone improves academic performance, reduces vocal strain, and helps create an optimum learning environment. Another upside: The “I never heard you” excuse is gone forever! 

More resources:  

E-book: Improving student learning through clear, intelligible sound 

Case Study: A classroom audio brought in for a hearing-impaired student engages the entire class  

Case Study: Colorado school district improves hearing, listening and comprehension with innovative Lightspeed audio solutions 

Case Study: An assessment of the efficacy of a classroom audio distribution system using Language Environment Analysis (LENA) 

Case Study: Lancaster School District discovers positive correlation between student engagement and classroom audio system 

How instructional audio can help overcome listening challenges 

Article: Ears: The doorway to the brain 

Article: Why classroom acoustics matter 

Infographic: 6 reasons a classroom audio system benefits teachers and students