From the time we enter this world, we are surrounded by noise. We awake to the buzzing of an alarm clock, and struggle through car horns and trains to get to work. While these events in isolation may be insignificant to one’s hearing sensitivity or physiological health, it has been found that prolonged early exposure to noise can have both short and long-term consequences to an individual’s life. These negative consequences include difficulty with cognitive development, psychological distress, noise-induced tinnitus, and permanent noise-induced hearing loss. These researched consequences shed light on the importance of preventive actions and hearing health awareness for parents, educators, and health professionals.
NOISE AND COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT
Early noise exposure has been shown to affect cognitive development in children. These adverse effects to cognitive function include reading comprehension, long-term memory, and attention/concentration (Corra et. al, 2009). A review by Bridget M. Shield outlines “the effects of chronic noise exposure on children are problems with sustained attention and visual attention; poorer auditory discrimination and speech perception; poorer memory for tasks; and poorer reading ability” (Shield et. al, 2003). Other studies have revealed that, aside from just learning, children chronically exposed to noise are less motivated when placed in achievement situations, and tend to have a lower frustration tolerance (Bistrup et. al, 2001). This wide range of negative effects on cognitive development at such a pivotal time-period in the learning process are destined to effect the child’s educational progress throughout life.
Cognitive Delay in Children vs. Adults
While the cognition of adults is undoubtedly effected by noise, studies show that children are more susceptible to inadequate speech to noise ratios. When describing the development of the 2002 ANSI standard on classroom acoustic, a researcher named Nelson revealed that a child’s speech understanding in noise and reverberation does not reach that of an adult level until the later teenage years, with children under 13 years of age being particularly susceptible (Shield et.al, 2003). These difficulties are increased tenfold when adding a hearing impairment to the equation, which increases the need for an agreeable signal to noise ratio in learning environments.
Environmental noise and cognitive function
An older but illustrative study of impaired cognitive function with noise exposure involves the Munich airport in the 1970s and was reviewed later in 2002 with more advanced data. Deficits in both long-term memory and reading were observed around the airport before it was closed. The children chosen for this study were screened as normal hearing children who spoke fluent German, to rule out a language difference. The observations of the cohort that attended the school...