4 tips and tricks to reduce noise in classrooms

Teachers and children spend many hours in school trying to concentrate and learn. Often this takes place with noise in classrooms – in small classrooms, noisy halls and old school buildings which were built before anyone was paying attention to noise reducing materials and a good sound environment.

School teachers and child care workers are among the professions that are most disturbed by noise at work, according to a  Danish study from the National Research Centre for the Working Environment (only in Danish)

It is important to know which possibilities there are to improve the situation, both in terms of creating a good learning environment for the children and in terms of preventing stress and tinnitus for teachers. It does not necessarily have to be an expensive solution, but a lot of cheap alternatives can make a difference too.

1) Sound reducing paintings?
Schools are rarely built by acousticians and thirty years ago, the focus was not always on creating good sound in public buildings. These years, a range of noise reduction products is available both when building or renovating schools. However, even easily accessible solutions like sound absorbing paintings, furniture and elements in the ceiling can help to lower the volume in the classroom.

2) Tight budget in the school? – Go green
Many schools have a tight budget and classroom renovation is not an option. In this case, try putting up extra notice boards to reduce noise. You can even place nice plants in the room and benefit from the sound absorption.

3) Imagine 25 kids in a small classroom on Friday afternoon – create awareness
Imagine that. No matter how good the acoustics are, there will always be sounds and noises in class especially if you place 25 kids in a small classroom on Friday afternoon. How to control it? One way is to make children aware of how their surroundings affect their concentration and learning environment. The more awareness, the better chance there is for the teacher to make a change.

 

SoundEar 3-300

4) Use visual tools to “see” the noise
Noise can be an abstract phenomenon, especially for kids. Often children are not aware of high sound levels. SoundEar has sound monitoring equipment which in a very visible way shows when the noise level is too high. This helps both teachers and kids to self-regulate the noise level in class.

Make noise a subject of the week, and give the children the task of keeping an eye on the noise levels. This creates awareness, and you can afterwards collect data from SoundEar and see which initiatives improved the noise level in class over time.

 

Where to start?
Most teachers know in which parts of the school there is a noise-related problem, but do the teachers and board agree, and how long do teachers and children have to live with it before a solution is found? Start out by finding out all the areas and classes where teachers have experienced high noise levels. This can be supported by real data about the noise levels in class. You are welcome to contact SoundEar, who can give you advice on how you should proceed.

 

4 tips and tricks for a quiet classroom – do you have a 5th?
Have you experienced or worked with initiatives helping reduce the noise level in classrooms?

SoundEar in place – at Audi

Audi is using Soundear SE II Industry to focus on noise levels in the working environment.

Audi, like other big German businesses, has its own dual vocational training department. Situated in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm, more than 2,600 trainees are working as part of a beginning career at Audi.

Audi has chosen to focus on noise levels not only in their cars, but also in their vocational training department as well as in their painting department in Ingolstadt, which is also a workplace for trainees. Audi is working on creating awareness about the risk of hearing loss and how it can be prevented. The focus on the education department is due to the company’s effort to draw attention to noise levels in the working environment right from the start of a career at Audi.

SoundEar at AUDI
Copyright: AUDI AG

Results: Everybody can ‘see’ the noise.

Audi has made a simple solution which shows the noise levels. They opted out the possibilities of monitoring data over time using statistics. They simply ‘shows the noise’ and has experienced a self-regulating behaviour when trainees are keeping an eye on the installed sound monitoring equipment. The effect is that they tend to use earmuffs more, when they can see that sound levels are high.
Audi uses the SoundEar SE II Industry to monitor sound levels. The SoundEar omits a clear warning signal if ear protection is required, hereby visualizing noise in a very easily understandable way.

 

What is the situation at your workplace?

We are interested in your experience concerning the situation at your workplace? Are people aware of noise in the work environment – or is there still a long way to go?

T-Systems recommends Noise Guide to reduce office noise

When it comes to reducing office noise levels, one concern is the noise stemming from conversations, and this is where the Noise Guide excels.

Office noise_Noise Guide in office

The German IT services and consulting company, T-Systems, decided to introduce open plan offices, and as part of this process introduced several initiatives to help prevent the nuisances of office noise in the new open plan offices.

A main initiative, and one that they would recommend to other companies with open plan offices, was to install Noise Guides in the offices. Employees use the Noise Guides as a visual reminder to keep down their own and workmates’ noise levels. Regine Weller says:

“We would definitely recommend the Noise Guide for all open plan offices. They are an important tool to achieving self-control in regards to noise.”

Regine Weller further explains that the Noise Guides help employees become aware of their own noise levels, and when colleagues in the team cause the sensor on the Noise Guide to turn red, they simply make a kind remark to keep down their voices.

The new open plan offices at T-Systems were introduced at a time when issues about office noise was already well-known and heavily debated. So T-Systems did what they could to reduce any such issues beforehand. Some of the initiatives included setting up partitions in the offices to prevent the noise from travelling too far. They also decided to put up sound absorbent pictures on the walls to help reduce office noise, and carefully considered the location of different employees and teams in the offices.

These were practical solutions to help lower the general noise levels in the offices through physical planning of the office environment, but they needed a device to help them lower noise from people. The Noise Guides complement these initiatives by serving as a constant reminder for each employee and each team to keep down their own voices. The Noise Guides help employees regulate their own and workmates’ behavior, thereby causing the noise levels for the entire office to lower.

More about Office Noise

You may also be interested in:

Tips and guides on how to reduce office noise:
Visit noiseguide.org

Article about reducing noise in offices:
Stop Noise from Ruining Your Open Office

Research paper about the effects of noise on office workers:
Noise in the Office Workplace

How to reduce hospital noise at neonatal units

Hospital noise is an issue for babies born prematurely who are at high risk when it comes to external influences such as noise. Their systems are underdeveloped and they need as much sleep and rest as possible to recuperate.

hospital noise_nicu

This is one of the reasons why the Neonatal Unit at the highly specialized hospital in Denmark, Rigshospitalet, began cooperating with the noise measurement company SoundEar this year.

Not all sound is noise

Staff at the Neonatal Unit stress that there is a difference between what they call ‘good sound’ and noise. The point being that not all sound is noise, and not all sound should be eliminated.
It is important for the development of the newborns that they hear sound such as their parents and siblings talking and singing to them. It is also important that staff can communicate audibly in critical situations, and it is inevitable that some medical equipment, such as respirators, are noisy. What they do want to reduce is unnecessary sound stemming from alarms, furniture, work flow and talk.

Keeping parents in the loop

An important part of the project is to keep parents informed about why the noise meters are installed and not only focus on reducing noise, but also inform them that they should still talk to their newborns and that some medical care routines will result in a certain level of noise. One way of going about this has been to develop a flyer to hand out to new parents in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

See the flyer here .

Reducing hospital noise through awareness

The aim is to bring down hospital noise levels at the NICU through installing noise meters in all rooms. Half of the noise meters are anonymous white boxes, which solely measure and collect noise levels. The other half of the noise meters also have a display with an ear, that lights up green, yellow or red, indicating the current level of noise in the room.

hospital-noise_soundear-3-320-and-soundear-3-300

Nudging staff and families to reduce noise

The driving forces behind the project at the NICU are:
Janne Weis, Clinical researcher and nursing specialist
Gorm Greisen, MD, Professor of Paediatrics
Susanne Søndergaard Kappel, Clinical nursing specialist

They hope to see a reduction in noise levels at the NICU through different layers of nudging:

  • The noise meters with displays should help staff and families become aware of their own noise levels and change their noisy behaviour.
  • The software helps staff become aware of when and where noise levels are critical and something should be done differently.
  • The software sends out noise reports on a weekly basis via email to key staff members, who use these reports as a basis for further discussion about noise at staff meetings.

See examples of the noise reports here:

Noise report for a day
Noise report for a week

Changing routines

After having the SoundEar devices hanging in the NICU for a few months, staff was asked to fill out a questionnaire about the perceived hospital noise levels, and whether the SoundEar devices seemed to have changed anything.

14 staff members, primarily nurses, answered the questionnaire and 78.6 % reported that the SoundEar devices had made them more attentive to noise levels. The same amount reported to have changed some of their behaviour because of the SoundEar devices.

The change that most staff members reported to have made, was to unpack syringes and other types of medical equipment outside of patient rooms, because they had noticed that the ripping of plastic made an unnecessary amount of noise around the children. Others reported lowering their voices and lowering the noise level of alarms as changes they had made after the installation of the SoundEar devices.

Several staff members also reported to have seen an increase in parents’ attention to noise levels, and that they commented on noise to other visitors and siblings, thereby spreading the attention to noise.

Custom-made software

All the noise meters transfer noise measurement data wirelessly to a central computer, where it is accessible to staff through a piece of software, developed specifically for hospital use by SoundEar in cooperation with staff at the NICU.

Co-creating a noise measurement system

An important part of the project was to create a system that would help reduce hospital noise and become part of the daily routine at hospitals. For SoundEar, this meant focusing on what staff needed and what their everyday work life looked like and adjusting to that.

In the early days of the project, SoundEar viewed the software platform as the main component of the system and something that staff should be able to interact with daily. They should monitor noise levels just as they were used to monitoring the health levels of the newborns.

To make the software as useful as possible, SoundEar conducted several interviews with staff members. Very soon, it became clear that even though nurses viewed reducing hospital noise as important, their focus was on the critical medical care for the newborns and keeping them alive and well. Their time was limited and they would not be able to prioritise time from their busy schedules to consult a piece of software that did not have immediate medical importance for the children.

Instead, they suggested that a few members of the staff should be responsible for driving the hospital noise reduction; looking at the software and gathering insights for the rest of the staff to discuss at weekly meetings. Along the way, this insight turned into auto-generated noise reports being sent to key staff members to be discussed at staff meetings on a weekly basis.

More about noise at hospitals

You may also be interested in:

Research paper on a study about reducing noise in operating rooms, using SoundEar devices:
A noise-reduction program in a pediatric operation theatre is associated with surgeon’s benefits and a reduced rate of complications: a prospective controlled clinical trial.

SoundEar press release about the study:
Safer Operations by Surgeons in Quiet Theatres

Ottawa Hospital installing SoundEar to reduce noise at night:
Ottawa Hospital’s ‘SoundEar’ meant to give patients the quiet they need to heal

CBC Radio post about noise at hospitals and the risks for patients:
Noisy hospitals are putting patients at risk. Here’s why

Blog post about noise at hospitals by Schneider Electric:
The Sound of Silence?

Measure noise wirelessly in multiple locations

Now you can measure noise wirelessly with SoundEar’s launch of a wireless system for noise measurement and new software release.
Measure Noise with SoundEar 3 Wireless

Curious about how to measure noise wirelessly?

With SoundEar 3 – Wireless, you get an easy to use noise measurement system, that allows you to:

  • Visualise current noise levels
  • Measure noise in large areas
  • Connect multiple noise measuring devices – 5, 10, 20… or 200!
  • Transfer data wirelessly to your computer
  • Monitor and analyse noise levels from your computer
  • Receive  noise reports on email on a daily or weekly basis

You do not need an engineering degree to use this noise measurement system. We can deliver the system configured to your particular setting, and all you will need to do is plug it in and start reaping the noise reduction rewards.

Using the SoundEar 3 device to create awareness of current noise levels, and using the software to learn when and where noise levels are critical, you have taken the first steps towards reducing noise in your setting.

Visual reminder of noise levels

With SoundEar 3, you have a constant visual reminder of current noise levels. The SoundEar will be green when noise levels are acceptable, turn yellow when noise levels are approaching a critical level and flash red when the noise reaches a critical level for your particular setting.

Green ear:
soundear_3_001_gr%e2%94%9cn

Yellow ear:
soundear_3_002_gul

Red ear:
soundear_3_003_r%e2%94%9cd

To learn more about noise levels in different situations stay tuned for our next blog post giving an introduction to which noise levels you can expect in different settings and situations.

Use the software to monitor and analyse noise levels

With the new SoundEar software release, you can monitor current noise levels for all your devices from your computer. You can also analyse your noise data in the software using the Library feature. From here, you can compare noise levels for different devices and for different days or weeks through a simple click and choose system.

 

Step 1) Choose which devices to look at:
soundear-software_select-devices

Step 2) Choose which date(s) to look at:
soundear-software_select-dates

Step 3) Choose the time of day to look at:
soundear-software_select-time

To learn more about the SoundEar 3 – Wireless system and the new SoundEar software, take a look at the SoundEar 3 – Wireless demo on YouTube.

 

How to reduce noise levels in cities

Are you one of the nearly 70 million Europeans who are exposed to noise levels above 55 dB on a daily basis? Due to a wide range of health issues related to high noise levels, the European Commission requires that member states map the noise levels in cities and large towns.

But how do we reduce noise levels in cities, and how is noise exposure a health risk? Find out how the Swedish municipality of Malmö has tackled the issue of noise in their city.

kids-reduce-noise

 

Noise affects your health

Studies have shown that noise affects the physical and mental wellbeing of people. Stress, negative sleep patterns, concentration difficulties and even difficulties acquiring knowledge are some of the negative effects of noise. Noise is also known to cause permanent hearing loss and high blood pressure as well as to have cardio vascular effects.

Particularly children are in the risk of suffering from difficulties with acquiring knowledge, concentrating and having a good night’s sleep which is important for their development.

Learn more about the health effects of noise exposure from these articles: 

Health effects of noise

Auditory and non-auditory effects of noise on health

Health effects caused by noise: Evidence in the literature from the past 25 years

Requirements from the EU

The European Commission requires that Member States document noise maps and noise management action plans every 5 years for:

  • Agglomerations with more than 100,000 inhabitants
  • Major roads (more than 3 million vehicles a year)
  • Major railways (more than 30,000 trains a year)
  • Major airports (more than 50,000 movements a year, including small aircrafts and helicopters)

Source: European Commission

It may seem a big issue to tackle, figuring out how to reduce noise in the city, and so SoundEar recently met with Environmental Engineer, Mårten Spanne, from the Environment Department in Malmö to learn more about their noise reduction programme, and what they do to reduce noise in Malmö.

Start by measuring noise levels and creating awareness

Malmö, located in southern Sweden, is working on reducing the negative effects of noise on their citizens through an elaborate noise reduction programme. The first step towards reducing noise in the city is to create an awareness of current noise levels. In Malmö, they do that by measuring noise levels in the city with outdoor microphones and a noise measurement system from SoundEar.

The focus in Malmö is on creating a better sound atmosphere and thereby creating a more attractive and liveable city with inhabitants who are less likely to suffer from health issues related to exposure to high noise levels.

For a full read (in Swedish) on the noise reduction programme in Malmö, visit the city’s website or download the program in pdf.

How and where to measure noise?

In order to measure current noise levels in Malmö, the municipality has installed two SoundEar noise measuring devices in the city, helping the municipality detect where the biggest noise related issues are and scaling the issues to map the entire city.

Currently, Malmö is primarily measuring noise in these locations:

  • Bergsgatan: measuring noise in a busy street
  • Mobile monitoring station: currently measuring noise at Nobelvägen (a busy road in the northern parts of the city)

Malmö also has a portable measuring station – located in a trailer –  which allows them to measure noise for a shorter period of time in any given location of the city. Among other places, it has been measuring noise at the harbour, determining noise pollution levels from cargo ships and cruise ships, which dominate the soundscape in the harbour.

reduce noise_measuring-station

(Measuring station in Malmö, Dalaplan)

From the monitoring station at Dalaplan, the municipality gathers information on a daily basis about the pollution in Malmö, from carbon dioxide levels to ozone and noise pollution among other things. The noise levels are measured using a SoundEar 3-320 device with an outdoor microphone.

“We had not been measuring noise for a long time in Malmö. The last environmental noise measurement campaign was done in the early seventies. During the implementation of the noise reduction programme, we decided that we needed to measure noise in the streets to show the benefits of actions to reduce the sources of noise”, says Mårten Spanne. The point being, that it is necessary to take measurements closer to the source of the noise – in this case, the busy streets of Malmö.

Environmental and noise reduction initiatives

Besides from measuring noise levels around the city, Mårten Spanne points out some of the initiatives to reducing noise levels the municipality has realized so far. One of them being to lower the speed limit in the inner parts of the city to 40 km/hour – not only providing a quieter atmosphere, but also reducing pollution and traffic accidents. Another important initiative has been to require that all public busses in the city are electrically powered – making not only much less noise than other busses, but also omitting less pollution into the city air.

According to Mårten Spanne, the next steps are also going to be very interesting, focusing more on the softer sides of providing a good atmosphere for Malmö citizens. Next up is creating quiet areas and zones in parks, squares and other recreational areas around the city. This will provide refuge from the busy city life and a place for both ears and minds to relax in Malmö.

reduce noise_Soundear 3-320 device

(Environmental Engineer from Malmö municipality, Mårten Spanne, with a SoundEar 3-320 noise measurement device)

Focus on areas with a lot of people

In Malmö, they have decided to measure noise in areas known to generally have high noise levels and in areas where noise is going to affect the most people. The areas receiving special noise attention in Malmö are:

  • Residential areas
  • Pre- and primary schools
  • Parks and recreational areas
  • Busy streets and intersections

The focus in Malmö on reducing noise is closely linked to the wellbeing of their citizens. It may be difficult to quantify the results of the noise reduction programme. But the municipality expects that it will lead to an increase in the health of their citizens, i.e. better sleep, less stress and a lower risk of high blood pressure.

But how – besides measuring the noise – do they plan to reduce noise levels?

The steps to reduce noise in Malmö

The long term goal of the noise reduction programme in Malmö is to reach the following noise levels:

  • A maximum indoor noise level at night of 30 dBA
  • A maximum outdoor noise level at night of 55 dBA and

For an idea of what these noise levels actually mean, take a look at this pdf showing noise levels for different situations.

Some of the initiatives the municipality of Malmö has taken and will take to reach these levels are:

  • Traffic regulation – reducing the speed limit to 40 km/hour in the city centre
  • Using only electrically powered busses in public transport
  • Installing noise barriers in public spaces
  • Paving roads with noise dampening asphalt
  • Window insulation – subsidise homeowners who insulate their windows against noise.
  • Creating quiet areas in parks and other recreational areas

Adapting to the needs of Malmö

The municipality of Malmö logs all measurements and collects them manually via USB for research purposes. But they also have a webpage for public display of noise levels, and for this purpose they only need the hourly noise averages along with the max noise levels, as they are easier to read. This specific need has resulted in the development of a small additional piece of software for the SoundEar 3 noise measuring system that only draws out the measurement types:

  • ‘LAeq, 60 min.’ (the average noise level, measured over 60 minutes) and
  • ‘LAF max’ (the highest A-weighted noise level measured within a second, as a fast measurement).

With the new software, the city of Malmö is ensured a stable and reliable logging of the data they need for public display directly on their webpage.

What does all of this mean?

So, to sum it all up, there are a number of risks related to exposure to high noise levels, such as stress, high blood pressure and concentration difficulties. The European Commission has decided that European countries need to make plans for reducing noise levels in their cities.

One such plan for reducing noise levels comes from the Swedish municipality, Malmö, and their main focus is on reducing noise levels where people primarily tend to stay. That is in residential areas, near schools and in public parks and squares around the city.

Some of the steps to reducing noise in Malmö are to create quiet zones in recreational areas around the city and to help citizens insulate their windows against noise. When it comes to traffic noise, Malmö is using a number of different initiatives, including noise absorbing asphalt, electrically powered busses and traffic regulation.

You might be curious as to what your city is doing to reduce noise levels near you. Check their website or give them a call to see what the plans are. Maybe they even have suggestions for you on things, you can do in your house, apartment or neighbourhood to reduce noise.

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