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Obtaining adequate numeracy skills and listening comprehension skills at primary school are vital for children’s future success. However, classrooms are often noisy and reverberant which may interfere with learning these skills. Two scoping reviews were conducted to synthesise research assessing the effect of different classroom acoustic conditions on (1) children’s numeracy performance and (2) children’s listening comprehension and to identify areas for future research. The PRISMA-ScR protocol was used for these scoping reviews. A comprehensive search of four online databases was conducted in September 2021 using the search term classroom AND (noise OR reverberation OR acoustics) AND (numeracy OR math* OR arithmetic) for the ﬁrst scoping review, and in May 2022 using the search term classroom AND (acoustic* OR noise OR reverb*) AND ("listening comprehension" OR "auditory comprehension" OR "spoken language comprehension" OR "speech comprehension”) for the second scoping review. The effect of the acoustic conditions on children’s numeracy was varied with most studies showing a negative or no effect of noise, but two showed a positive effect. Therefore, future research is needed to better understand the effect of different classroom acoustic conditions on children’s numeracy performance. For listening comprehension overall, signal-to-noise ratios below + 10 dB mostly had a negative effect on children’s listening comprehension compared to quiet conditions; however, variables such as the noise type, signal-to-noise ratio tested, the listening comprehension domain examined, the population studied, and the voice used for the stimuli affected this. Future research avenues to better understand these effects are proposed. Keywords Numeracy · Mathematics · Listening comprehension · Classroom acoustics · Noise · Children 1 Introduction and weather noise. Internal noise sources can also be present including building and service noise such as noise from heat- The acoustic conditions of a classroom such as noise and ing, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems and equipment reverberation can impact on children’s learning . Specif- noise, and noise from the children, such as speech and move- ically, a recent review showed that noise affects children’s ment. Noise can be exacerbated by the reverberation in a literacy skills of reading, writing, and spelling . The room. Reverberation can be quantiﬁed by the reverberation present review will focus on the effects of different classroom time of the room, which is the time it takes for a sound to acoustic conditions on (1) children’s numeracy performance decay by 60 dB. Longer reverberation times mean the sound and (2) children’s listening comprehension. is more prolonged in the room. Historically, most studies have Noise may affect children’s performance in numeracy and examined the effects of external noise on children’s perfor- their listening comprehension. Noise sources can be exter- mance; however, more recently, studies have been examining nal to the classroom, such as trafﬁc, aircraft, construction, the effect of noise from the children within the classroom . When examining the effect of noise on different pro- cesses, noise exposure can be classiﬁed as either chronic, B Kiri Mealings firstname.lastname@example.org i.e. noise exposure over a long period of time, or acute, i.e. noise exposure over a short period of time. Studies on chronic Department of Linguistics – Audiology Section, Macquarie noise exposure usually examine real noise naturally occur- University, 16 University Avenue, Level 1 Australian Hearing Hub, Macquarie Park, NSW 2109, Australia ring in the classroom and hence have ecological validity but 123 Acoustics Australia less control. Studies on acute noise exposure usually have the auditory domain and affect their listening comprehen- recorded noise presented in experimental conditions so allow sion more generally. for greater control but can be less ecologically valid. There are several recommendations about what the acous- Noise has been found to affect children’s performance tic conditions in a classroom should be with these mainly on both auditory and non-auditory tasks. Regarding non- derived to ensure adequate perception of speech [11, 12]. auditory tasks, noise can have a negative effect on children’s Because of the adverse effects on speech intelligibility, many visual short-term memory, reading, and writing performance countries have room acoustic standards with recommended (see [4, 5] and  for reviews). Poorer attention control in maximum unoccupied noise levels and reverberation times children compared to adults can result in this poorer perfor- for classrooms. For example, the Australian/New Zealand mance (see  for a review). Therefore, noise may affect Standard AS/NZS2107:2016  recommends that unoc- children’s numeracy skills for mathematical questions that cupied noise levels should not exceed 35–45 dBA and that are presented in the visual domain. reverberation times for standard classrooms should be around For auditory tasks, noise impairs children’s speech per- 0.5 s (though this does vary depending on the size of the class- ception (see  for a review). To succeed at school, it is vital room). For occupied classrooms, it is recommended in the that children are able to listen and comprehend their teacher’s research literature that the noise levels should not exceed 50 and classmates’ speech. Factors which affect listening can be dBA to allow for a + 15 dB SNR given that a typical voice classiﬁed into listener-external and listener-internal factors is around 65 dBA [8, 11, 13]. However, these conditions are . Listener-external factors include the target speaker, inter- often not met . Schools may be built in high trafﬁc areas fering noise sources, spatial conﬁguration, and the acoustic or under ﬂight paths and/or have reverberation times above characteristics of the room. Listener-internal factors include the recommended 0.5 s (see  for a review). Addition- the child’s auditory and cognitive processing (which could ally, modern teaching methods that focus on group work are be affected by having a young, underdeveloped auditory sys- becoming more common making up around 50% of teaching tem) and their personal state. Children do not reach adult-like time [14, 15]. These activities have higher noise levels than performance on speech perception tasks in noise and rever- lecture-style or independent learning [16, 17]. Furthermore, beration until the late teenage years . Children’s poorer open plan innovative learning environments are growing in auditory selective attention skills compared to adults can be popularity  and have higher intrusive noise levels coming attributed to them experiencing greater distraction from noise from the adjacent classes without walls between them . (see for areview). Therefore, it is important to understand the effect that It has long been established that poor classroom acous- different classroom acoustic conditions have on children’s tic conditions affect children’s speech perception , but numeracy performance for tasks presented in the visual what about the effects on listening comprehension? Accord- and auditory domains, and on their listening comprehension ing to Kiessling et al.  listening “is the process of hearing more generally. To achieve this understanding, two scop- with intention and attention” (p. 93). Comprehending, how- ing reviews were carried out—one investigating the effect ever, goes beyond this. Comprehending “is the reception of of classroom acoustic conditions on children’s numeracy information, meaning, or intent”  (p. 93). Schiller et al. performance and one examining the effect on listening com-  have developed the Speech Processing under Acous- prehension. A scoping review as outlined by Munn et al.  tic DEgradations (SPADE) framework which proposes three aims “to identify the types of available evidence in a given processing dimensions (speech perception, listening com- ﬁeld; to clarify key concepts/deﬁnitions in the literature; to prehension, and auditory working memory) to determine the examine how research is conducted on a certain topic or ﬁeld; effect of noise on children’s ability to “(a) auditorily per- to identify key characteristics or factors related to a concept; ceive what is being said, (b) understand (comprehend) the as a precursor to a systematic review; and to identify and anal- content of a verbal message, and (c) memorize what they yse knowledge gaps” (p. 2). In contrast, a systematic review have been told” (p. 171). The authors note that listening has a focus on informing practice and policy which was not comprehension requires semantic and syntactic integration, the purpose of this paper . requires top-down processing, and is inﬂuenced by prior knowledge and language abilities. Listening comprehension tasks involve longer speech stimuli than speech perception 2 The Eﬀect of Classroom Acoustic tasks and rather than speciﬁcally assessing speech decoding Conditions on Primary School Children’s abilities in noise, they assess the effect of increased listen- Numeracy Performance ing effort in noise on how well children understand what has been said . Therefore, noise may affect children’s numer- According to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and acy skills for mathematical questions that are presented in Reporting Authority, “numeracy encompasses the knowl- edge, skills, behaviours and dispositions that students need to 123 Acoustics Australia use mathematics in a wide range of situations. It involves stu- 3.4 Search dents recognising and understanding the role of mathematics in the world and having the dispositions and capacities to use A comprehensive search of the online databases was con- mathematical knowledge and skills purposefully” . Poor ducted on 3 September 2021 to identify the effects of numeracy skills can reduce a person’s employment oppor- classroom acoustics on children’s numeracy performance. tunities and limit their job progression opportunities . The search term was classroom AND (noise OR reverberation Employers in a wide range of disciplines highly regard grad- OR acoustics) AND (numeracy OR math* OR arithmetic). No uates’ numeracy skills and often use numeracy tests as part publication date restrictions were applied. of their recruitment process . Therefore, competence in numeracy from the early years is of vital importance for a 3.5 Selection of Sources of Evidence child’s future success. The aim of this ﬁrst scoping review was to synthesise and All publications identiﬁed in the searches were evaluated by systematically map research that has assessed the effect of the titles, and then abstracts and full text when needed for different classroom acoustic conditions on primary school potentially relevant publications. children’s numeracy performance as well as to identify gaps to inform future research. The following research question 3.6 Data Charting Process was formulated: What is known from the literature about the effect of classroom acoustic conditions on primary school Data charting refers to how relevant information from the children’s numeracy performance? papers was extracted. Data from eligible studies were charted to capture the relevant information on key study charac- teristics of the effect of classroom acoustic conditions on 3 Method children’s numeracy performance. 3.1 Protocol 3.7 Data Items The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Data were abstracted on the following characteristics: child Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA- populations that have been studied, the types of acoustic con- ScR)  was the protocol used for this scoping review. ditions that have been assessed, the types of measures used to The PRISMA extension for scoping reviews website can assess numeracy performance, and the effect of the acoustic be found here: http://www.prisma-statement.org/Extensions/ conditions on children’s numeracy performance. ScopingReviews. 3.8 Synthesis of Results 3.2 Eligibility Criteria Studies were grouped by the acoustic conditions explored and The peer-reviewed papers had to meet the following crite- summarised according to the effect of the acoustic conditions ria to be included in the review: (1) conduct a study on the on children’s numeracy performance. effect of classroom acoustics (i.e. noise or reverberation) on children’s numeracy performance via a test (i.e. not a questionnaire) in either the ﬁeld or the laboratory, (2) be 4 Results conducted with primary school children (i.e. include chil- dren aged 5–12 years—papers that included slightly older 4.1 Selection of Sources of Evidence children were also included as long as they included a group of children within this age range), and (3) have the full text The search and selection process of the studies included in in English available. the review is shown in Fig. 1. A total of 227 papers (170 after removing duplicates) were returned in the searches. These 3.3 Information Sources were vetted for relevance via reading the title, abstract, and when needed for clariﬁcation, the full text. Nine papers were To identify potentially relevant documents, the following bib- deemed relevant for the review. The references of these liographic databases were searched: ERIC, PubMed, Scopus, papers were checked and an additional six journal articles and Web of Science. The ﬁnal search results were exported ﬁtted the review criteria bringing the total number of papers into.csv ﬁles where duplicates were removed. to be reviewed to 15. 123 Acoustics Australia Fig. 1 Database search results for the numeracy performance scoping review 4.2 Characteristics and Results of Sources results of the study for children with high versus low intel- of Evidence ligence as measured by a standardised general intelligence test . The age range of children assessed was from sec- The general information for the 15 papers included in the ond grade to eighth grade, i.e. 7- to 13-year-olds. (Note that review is shown in Table 1. The range of publication years the studies involving seventh and eighth grade children were was from 1972 to 2021, with the majority of papers being included even though this was outside of primary school age published since 2002 (see Fig. 2). The following sections group as they also included sixth graders.) describe the population studied, the acoustic conditions investigated, the measures and methods used to assess numer- acy, and the outcomes of the papers. 4.4 Acoustic Exposure 4.3 Population The acoustic exposure investigated in the reviewed papers can be split into two categories: chronic noise exposure and All studies assessed the range of children found in main- acute exposure. stream classroom except for one study which speciﬁcally Seven studies assessed the effect of chronic noise expo- assessed the effect of noise on school performance in hyper- sure on children’s mathematics performance. The source of active children . Johansson , however, did analyse the chronic noise exposure was external noise such as aircraft 123 Acoustics Australia Table 1 General information for the 15 papers included in the review and effect on children’s numeracy outcomes Authors Aim Population/age Acoustic conditions Numeracy Modality: Exposure Effect of louder noise Effect of longer measures auditory reverberation time (A) or visual (V) Chronic Acute Negative None Positive Negative None a a Caviola et al. To investigate Children aged (1) Quiet (ambient noise of the Mental Ax x x m m (2021)  the effect of 11 ,12 , classroom), (2) trafﬁc noise calculation noise on and 13 (recorded alongside task mental years old a busy road and calculation (Grades 6–8) processed with a spectral ability in a (n = 182) ﬁltering school setting procedure to account for sound insulation from a typical building façade played at 60 dB via a loudspeaker), and (3) classroom noise (typical working classroom sounds with ﬂuctuating unintelligible speech played at 60 dB via a loudspeaker) conditions Two classrooms had a similar volume (152 and 155 m )and size (7.3 × 7.0 × 3.1 and 8.3 × 6.0 × 3.1 m), and a similar reverberation time Speech stimuli were played at 63 dBA at 1 m (i.e. a signal-to-noise ratio of + 3dB) b b Cohen et al. To assess the Children in Schools with (1) high aircraft California –x x x (1981)  impact of third and noise exposure (mean peak = Test of noise on fourth grade 79.06 dB), (2) high aircraft Basic Skills children’s (n not noise but with noise abatement on mathe- attentional reported) (mean peak = 63.17 dB), and matics strategies, schools with (3) low aircraft learned noise (mean peak = 56.60 dB) helplessness, Classroom characteristics not cognitive task provided performance, and blood pressure Acoustics Australia Table 1 (continued) Authors Aim Population/age Acoustic conditions Numeracy Modality: Exposure Effect of louder noise Effect of longer measures auditory reverberation time (A) or visual (V) Chronic Acute Negative None Positive Negative None c c Dockrell and To explore the Children in (1) Quiet, (2) babble only Arithmetic Vx x x Shield (2006) effects of Year 3 (n = (65 dB), and (3) babble test  typical 158) (65 dB) plus environmental classroom noise 58 dBA L Amax noise on conditions. Presentation of children’s noise not speciﬁed literacy and Children tested in classrooms. speed task Classroom characteristics not performance provided Haines et al. To examine the Children in Schools with high levels of United –x x (2002)  effects of Year 6 (n = aircraft noise exposure Kingdom chronic 11,000) categorised into eight groups: Standard aircraft noise (1) = <54dBL ,(2) Assessment Aeq,16 h exposure on = 54 > 57 dB L ,(3) = Tests in Aeq,16 h children’s 57 > 60 dB L ,(4) = Mathemat- Aeq,16 h school 60 > 63 dB L ,(5) = ics Aeq,16 h performance 63 > 66 dB L ,(6) = Aeq,16 h 66 > 69 dB L ,(7) = Aeq,16 h 69 > 72 dB L ,(8) = > Aeq,16 h 72 dB L Aeq,16 h Classroom characteristics not provided d d Johansson To investigate Children aged (1) Quiet (25 dB), (2) Multiplication–x x x (1983)  the effect of 10 years (n continuous noise consisting task continuous = 66) of 707–1414 Hz octave and band noise within the intermittent speech frequency spectrum noise on (51 dB), and (3) intermittent children’s noise (55–78 dB) played mental through loudspeakers performance Children tested individually in and writing an anechoic chamber pressure Acoustics Australia Table 1 (continued) Authors Aim Population/age Acoustic conditions Numeracy Modality: Exposure Effect of louder noise Effect of longer measures auditory reverberation time (A) or visual (V) Chronic Acute Negative None Positive Negative None Kassinove To investigate Children in (1) Quiet; (2) stories; (3) Addition andVx x (1972)  the effects of third and popular music; (4) music division meaningful sixth grade and stories simultaneously problems auditory (n = 80) presented from the same stimulation source; and (5) music and on children’s stories simultaneously scholastic presented from the different performance sources. All stimuli were presented between 70 and 80 dB and played through two loudspeakers Children tested individually in a room (room characteristics not provided) Ljung et al. To examine the Children aged (1) Silence, (2) road trafﬁc Basic mathe-Vx x (2009)  effects of 12–13 years (continuous road trafﬁc matics road trafﬁc (n = 187) noise (approx. 62 dBA) and (arithmeti- noise and segments of trucks passing cal and irrelevant by on average once per geometrical speech on minute (peak 78 dBA)) and problems) children’s (3) irrelevant speech and mathe- reading (unintelligible babble matical speed, (approx. 62 reasoning reading com- dBA) and intelligible tests prehension, conversation seg- basic ments matching the mathematics, dBA–against–time history and of the road trafﬁc noise) mathematical played through reasoning loudspeakers Children tested in classroom. Classroom characteristics not provided e e Meinhardt-Injac To understand Children in (1) Pink noise, (2) irrelevant Number taskVx x x et al. (2015) developmen- second speech, and (3) non-speech of simple  tal changes of grade (n = classroom noise at 65 dBA addition and auditory 21) and played over headphones subtraction distraction in sixth grade Children tested individually in equations children (n = 25) a room (room characteristics not provided) Acoustics Australia Table 1 (continued) Authors Aim Population/age Acoustic conditions Numeracy Modality: Exposure Effect of louder noise Effect of longer measures auditory reverberation time (A) or visual (V) Chronic Acute Negative None Positive Negative None Papanikolaou To investigate Children in Classrooms with (1) low Mathematical –x x et al. (2015) the effect of Grade 4 and (55–66 dB), (2) medium skills were  low, medium, Grade 5 (n = (67–77 dB), and (3) high assessed via and high 676) (72–80 dB) road trafﬁc noise problem trafﬁc road Classroom characteristics not solving and noise and provided arithmetic irrelevant calculations speech on tasks children’s reading and mathematical performance f f Prodi and To examine the Children aged Quiet (ambient noise of the Mental Ax x x Visentin effect of 11–13 years classroom), and classroom calculation (2021)  reverberation old (Grades noise (typical working task on children’s 6–8) (n = classroom sounds with speech 302) ﬂuctuating unintelligible perception, speech played at 60 dB via a sentence loudspeaker) conditions comprehen- The three classrooms had a sion, and similar volume (152, 155, and mental 150 m ) and size (7.3 × 7.0 × calculation in 3.1, 8.3 × 6.0 × 3.1, and 7.1 a classroom × 6.6 × 3.2 m) setting Speech stimuli were played at 63 dBA at 1 m (i.e. a signal-to-noise ratio of + 3dB) The children were tested in two classrooms with different reverberation times: 0.57 s and0.69s Acoustics Australia Table 1 (continued) Authors Aim Population/age Acoustic conditions Numeracy Modality: Exposure Effect of louder noise Effect of longer measures auditory reverberation time (A) or visual (V) Chronic Acute Negative None Positive Negative None Ronsse and To determine Children in Classrooms with mechanical Iowa Test of –x x Wang (2010) the second and cooling system noise Basic Skills  relationship fourth grade (36–53 dB L ) (mathemat- Aeq between in 58 Classroom characteristics not ics section background classrooms provided included mechanical (n not concepts, noise levels reported) estimation, and children’s problem reading and solving, and mathematics data achievement analysis) Ronsse and To determine Children in Classrooms with mechanical Terra Nova –x x Wang (2013) the acoustical third and heating and cooling system test in math-  conditions ﬁfth grade in noise (34–55 dB L ) ematics Aeq needed for 14 schools (n Classrooms were either children to not reported) closed, open plan, or portable meet educational goals g g Shield and To investigate Children aged Internal classroom noise during United –x x x f g Dockrell the effect of six different classroom Kingdom 7 and 11 (2003)  classroom activities (1) 56.3 dB L , Standard years in 140 Aeq noise on the (2) 61.2 dB L ,(3) Assessment classrooms Aeq academic 64.7 dB L ,(4) Tests in (n not Aeq attainments 72.2 dB L ,(5) Mathemat- reported) Aeq of children 72.9 dB L ,(6) ics Aeq 76.8 dB L Aeq Classroom characteristics not provided Acoustics Australia Table 1 (continued) Authors Aim Population/age Acoustic conditions Numeracy Modality: Exposure Effect of louder noise Effect of longer measures auditory reverberation time (A) or visual (V) Chronic Acute Negative None Positive Negative None i h h Shield and To investigate Children aged (1) External noise (range = United –x x x Dockrell the effect of 7and 30–80 dB L )and (2) Kingdom Aeq (2008)  chronic 11 years in j Standard internal noise (range = external and three Assessment 48–60 dB L ) occurring Aeq internal noise boroughs Tests in in the classroom exposure on with 142 Mathemat- Classroom characteristics not the academic schools for ics provided attainments external of children noise surveys and eight for internal noise surveys (n not reported) i i Zentall and To assess the Children in (1) High levels of linguistic Maths Vx x x Shaw (1980) effects of second grade classroom noise played problems  ambient noise (n = 48; half through headphones to the (not including hyperactive , children at approximately speciﬁed) conversations half 69 dB, (2) low noise levels on activity control ) produced by children in the and room at around 64 dB performance including the attenuation of of the headphones with no hyperactive sound and control Children tested in groups of children eight in a room (room characteristics not provided) Negative effect for children aged 11 and 12 years old, no effect for children aged 13 years old Children in the schools with high aircraft noise had signiﬁcantly poorer scores than children in noise-abated schools but scores were not signiﬁcantly different to those from children at schools with low aircraft noise Children performed signiﬁcantly poorer in the babble condition than the quiet condition but performance in the babble and environmental condition was not statistically signiﬁcantly different to that in the quiet condition or babble condition No effect for children with low intelligence, positive effect for children with high intelligence Negative effect for children in second grade, no effect for children in sixth grade The effect of reverberation was only apparent in the classroom noise condition (not quiet) and depended on the grade of the children with younger children performing poorer than older children in the longer reverberation condition but not the shorter condition. No signiﬁcant effects of reverberation and listening condition on reaction time were found egative effect for children in second grade, no effect for children in sixth grade Negative effect for external noise, no effect for internal noise Negative effect for hyperactive children, positive effect for control children Acoustics Australia Fig. 2 Publication years for the 15 papers reviewed in the numeracy performance scoping review noise [26, 27]ortrafﬁcnoise , internal building and ser- the other group assigned to difﬁcult problems. For the third vice noise such as noise from heating and cooling systems grade children, the easy problems group were asked to add [29, 30], or internal occupied noise such as talking and move- two one-digit numbers with no carrying required. For the ment noise from the children in the classroom [31, 32]. The difﬁcult problems group, the children were asked to add two details of the acoustic conditions can be found in Table 1. two-digit numbers that required carrying. For the sixth grade Seven studies assessed the immediate effect of acute noise children, the easy problems group were asked to solve divi- played via loudspeakers or over headphones on children’s sion problems with a two-digit number divided by a one-digit mathematical performance [23, 24, 33–37]. The types of number. The difﬁcult problems group were asked to divide acute noise were intelligible speech , irrelevant speech a four-digit number by a two-digit number. Children were [35, 36], babble , babble and environmental noise , assessed on their response accuracy and how many problems music , music and speech , intelligible classroom they solved in 45 min. noise , irrelevant classroom noise [36, 37], octave band Zentall and Shaw  assessed children’s performance noise , and road trafﬁc noise [35, 37]. One study assessed on mathematics problems but no additional details about the the effect of acute noise played through loudspeakers in class- form of the mathematics problems were reported. Johansson rooms with different reverberation times . The details of  assessed children’s performance on 406 multiplication the acoustic conditions can be found in Table 1. items of two digits by one. The children were given 25 min to complete as many equations as they could and were scored on their speed and accuracy. Dockrell and Shield  assessed 4.5 Measures and Methods children’s arithmetic skills via a paper and pencil arithmetic test that the children worked through at their own speed. The A range of tests were used to assess children’s mathemat- test involved basic computations but no verbal component. ics performance (see Table 1) including standardised school Ljung et al.  assessed children’s mathematical per- tests and tests created speciﬁcally for the study. There were formance on arithmetical and geometrical problems, and a also a range of test presentations including written/visual mathematical reasoning test. For the arithmetical tasks, the presentation, auditory presentation, numerical equations, and child answered three division problems and three multiplica- problems in word form. Outcome measures included accu- tion problems. For the geometrical problems, the child was racy of solving the mathematical problem and speed of asked two questions on naming points in a coordinate system, response. four questions demonstrating understanding of the relation- Six studies used the results of standardised school tests ship between fractional expressions and areas of ﬁgures, two to assess the impact of chronic noise exposure on children’s questions on understanding the relationship between distance mathematical performance. Cohen et al. usedthe Cal- and numerical expressions, and two questions measuring dis- ifornia Test of Basic Skills tests scores gathered from the tances. The mathematical reasoning test comprised problems schools. Haines et al.  used the children’s United King- expressed in words with a numerical solution. dom National Standardised Assessment Test mathematics Papanikolaou et al.  assessed children’s problem solv- scores. This assessment was also used by Shield and Dock- ing skills and arithmetic calculations. No other details of the rell  and Shield and Dockrell . Ronsse and Wang types of problems were provided. Meinhardt-Injac et al.   used the children’s mathematics results from the Iowa assessed children’s mathematical performance via 126 sim- Test of Basic Skills. Ronsse and Wang  used the chil- ple mathematical equations requiring addition or subtraction dren’s mathematics results from the Terra Nova tests. of two numbers. The children were asked whether a mathe- Nine studies created mathematics tests speciﬁcally for the matical equation was correct or incorrect with accuracy and study. Kassinove  assessed children’s arithmetic calcula- reaction time being recorded. tion abilities with one group assigned to easy problems and 123 Acoustics Australia Fig. 3 Effect of chronic noise exposure (negative, no effect) on chil- Fig. 4 Effect of chronic noise exposure (negative, no effect) on chil- dren’s mathematical performance for children in different years collated dren’s mathematical performance for different noise types collated from from reviewed papers with references in square brackets reviewed papers with references in square brackets Caviola et al.  and Prodi and Visentin  assessed children’s mathematics performance using 28 two-digit addi- tions and subtractions with two levels of difﬁculty. Low difﬁculty equations did not involve carrying or borrowing, whereas high difﬁculty equations did. The child listened to an audio recording of the problem and was asked to choose the correct response on their tablet from three multiple-choice answers (the correct answer, the correct answer plus or minus two, and the correct answer plus or minus 10). The children had up to 20 s to provide a response. Accuracy and response times were recorded for each problem. Fig. 5 Effect of chronic noise exposure (negative, no effect) on chil- 4.6 Outcomes dren’s mathematical performance for different noise levels compared to the reference condition collated from reviewed papers. Lines repre- An overview of whether increased noise/reverberation sent when a range of levels were studied resulted in a negative effect, no effect, or positive effect on children’s mathematical performance can be found in Table 1. A summary of the ﬁndings categorised by the acoustic shown to have a negative effect in both of the studies explor- exposure studied is found in Appendix A. ing this noise source. Heating and cooling system noise at the Figure 3 graphically presents the effect of chronic noise levels studied did not appear to affect children’s mathemati- exposure (negative or no effect) on children’s mathemati- cal performance. Conclusive ﬁndings could not be drawn for cal performance for children in different years collated from aircraft noise or classroom noise due to the mixed results and the reviewed papers. Papers could have more than one result small number of studies for each type of noise. depending on the grade, but also on the types of noise or Figure 5 shows the noise levels examined in the studies schools studied. For example, the study by Cohen et al.  and their effect (negative or no effect) on mathematical per- was scored twice as there was a negative effect on mathemat- formance. Higher noise levels around the 70–80 dB mark ics performance for high noise schools compared to schools tended to result in poorer mathematical performance. Shield with high noise but noise abatement, but no effect for high and Dockrell , however, show a trend of poorer perfor- versus low noise schools. As shown in Fig. 3, there was a mix mance from 30 dB upwards with it steepening from 60 dB of negative effects and no effects of noise on children’s math- and above so keeping noise levels below this is even more ematical performance. No studies showed positive effects of ideal. Note that Cohen et al.  were not included in this noise. Due to the small number of studies, a clear trend for ﬁgure as the noise levels reported were peak, not average. the effect of noise on children of different ages could not be Figure 6 graphically presents the effect of acute noise determined. exposure (negative, no effect, or positive) on children’s Figure 4 graphically presents the effect of chronic noise mathematical performance for children in different years exposure (negative or no effect) on children’s mathemati- (including children with special educational needs (SEN) cal performance for different noise types. Trafﬁc noise was in hashed colours) collated from reviewed papers. Again, 123 Acoustics Australia Fig. 8 Effect of acute noise exposure (negative, no effect, positive) on Fig. 6 Effect of acute noise exposure (negative, no effect, positive) on children’s mathematical performance for different noise levels com- children’s mathematical performance for children in different years pared to the reference condition collated from reviewed papers. Note (including children with special educational needs (SEN)) collated from that when the condition was silence, 25 dB was chosen to mark the ref- reviewed papers with references in square brackets erence condition. Lines represent when a range of levels were studied drawn due to the mixed results and small number of studies for each type of noise. Figure 8 shows the noise levels examined in the stud- ies and their effect (negative, no effect, or positive) on mathematical performance. The noise levels studied were concentrated around 50–60 dB, but the effect of the noise was mixed so clear conclusions about the effect of different noise levels on children’s mathematical performance cannot be drawn. (Note that when the condition was silence, 25 dB was chosen to mark the reference condition.) However, given that several studies did report negative effects of noise on Fig. 7 Effect of acute noise exposure (negative, no effect, positive) on children’s mathematical performance, it would be recom- children’s mathematical performance for different noise types (includ- mended to keep noise levels in classrooms as low as they ing children with special educational needs (SEN)) collated from possible. reviewed papers with references in square brackets For the two studies that did report positive effects of acute noise on children’s mathematical performance, there papers could have more than one result depending on the are some important points to note. Zentall and Shaw  grade, but also on the types of noise studied. The results were only had a difference of 5 dB between the two noise levels mixed with some studies showing negative effects, some (64 dB and 69 dB) and did not compare this to a quiet con- showing no effects, and some showing positive effects, so ditions where a negative effect of the higher noise level may no trends for the data could be drawn. have been found. The positive effect of noise in the Johansson Figure 7 graphically presents the effect of chronic noise  was speciﬁcally for those children with high intel- exposure (negative, no effect, or positive) on children’s math- ligence (whereas those with lower intelligence performed ematical performance for different noise types (including worse in noise). These speciﬁc children may have found the children with special educational needs (SEN) in hashed noise to boost their stimulation levels to an optimal level colours). It appears that acute exposure to trafﬁc noise does rather than overstimulate them as may have been the case not affect children’s mathematical performance at the level for the lower intelligence group. Therefore, it is important studied. This ﬁnding is interesting given that a negative to note that these positive results were for very speciﬁc effect of chronic road trafﬁc noise was found. This sug- studies. gests that while acute exposure to road trafﬁc noise may not Figure 9 shows the effect of noise or reverberation affect children’s mathematical performance initially, long- exposure (negative, no effect, positive) on children’s math- term, chronic exposure may have a negative effect. Therefore, ematical performance when the task was presented in dif- it is still advantageous to ensure that schools are built away ferent modalities (visual, auditory, not speciﬁed) for the from main roads if possible or are built with sound insula- 15 reviewed papers. Mixed results are seen. It is impor- tion. Otherwise, however, conclusive ﬁndings could not be tant to note, however, that for the auditory domain, children 123 Acoustics Australia 6 Method The same PRISMA-ScR method was used for this second scoping review as the ﬁrst scoping review. The database search was conducted on the 26 May 2022. The search term used was classroom AND (acoustic* OR noise OR reverb*) AND ("listening comprehension" OR "auditory comprehen- sion" OR "spoken language comprehension" OR "speech comprehension”). 7 Results Fig. 9 Effect of noise or reverberation exposure (negative, no effect, positive) on children’s mathematical performance (including children 7.1 Selection of Sources of Evidence with special educational needs (SEN)) when the task was presented in different modalities collated from reviewed papers with references in square brackets The search and selection process of the studies included in the review is shown in Fig. 10. After duplicates were removed, a total of 43 references were identiﬁed from searches of elec- tronic databases. Based on the title and/or the abstract and full at the top end of the age range included in the review text, 33 papers were excluded for the following reasons: 26 were assessed (11–13 years) and negative effects of higher did not assess the effect of classroom acoustics on children’s noise/reverberation were found for the younger children. listening comprehension, and seven did not assess children in the primary school age range. 7.2 Characteristics and Results of Sources of Evidence 5 The Eﬀect of Classroom Acoustic Conditions on Primary School Children’s A summary of the characteristics and overall outcomes of the studies included in the review is shown in Table 2.The Listening Comprehension range of publication years was from 2010 to 2021, with the This second scoping review explores further the effects of majority of studies published since 2018 (see Fig. 11). A classroom acoustic conditions on auditory stimuli more gen- synthesis of the results follows. erally. There have been two recent systematic reviews/meta- analyses on the effects of noise on children’s listening com- 7.3 Populations prehension [10, 39]. Overall, these reviews showed poorer listening comprehension in noisy conditions. However, these The majority of studies were conducted with children from reviews have included speech intelligibility/perception and typically developing populations who had normal hearing memory tests in their analyses, only included classroom [40–47]. One study, however, compared children who had chatter as the noise source, and only included children who normal hearing with those who had permanent unilateral were typically developing. The aim of this scoping review hearing loss . Another study compared children who was to only focus on listening comprehension as deﬁned by were native Swedish listeners with non-native Swedish lis- Kiessling et al. as “the reception of information, meaning, or teners . No other special populations were studied. intent”  (p. 93) (rather than also including speech intel- The full range of primary school ages were studied (i.e. ligibility/perception and memory), but to broaden it to any 5–12 years) plus an additional study that also included 13- classroom acoustic conditions (i.e. internal noise, external year-olds. noise, reverberation), provide a more detailed, speciﬁc anal- ysis of these acoustic conditions, and to scope the literature 7.4 Acoustic Exposure of children who are not only typically developing, but also those with special educational needs. All studies assessed the effect of acute noise exposure dur- The following research question was formulated: What ing the experiment. No studies assessed the effect of chronic is known from the literature about the effect of different noise exposure. The only acoustic variable assessed was classroom acoustic conditions on primary school children’s noise (used to calculate the SNR)—no studies assessed listening comprehension? reverberation or other room acoustic variables. Different 123 Acoustics Australia Fig. 10 Search strategy and results for the listening comprehension scoping review Table 2. These included children listening to a story/passage, sentences, or instructions. The types of responses ranged from answering content to inference questions, or picture- veriﬁcation/matching tasks. A range of listening comprehen- sion processes were examined; for example, in The Listening Comprehension Test 2  used by Sullivan et al. , the child answered questions in the following domains: main idea, details, reasoning, vocabulary, and understanding mes- sages. Fig. 11 Publication years of the 10 studies included in the listening 7.6 Outcomes comprehension scoping review A summary of the overall outcomes of the studies is shown in Table 2. These ﬁndings are described further in Appendix types of noises were assessed, however. These included B categorised into the type of noise investigated. one-competing speaker [40, 47], two-talker babble [43, 48], Figure 12 shows a visual representation of these results four-talker babble [41, 43, 47, 49], classroom noise with- categorised by the noise type. Note that the study by Grifﬁn out speech [45, 46], unintelligible classroom noise , et al.  was not included as it did not compare children’s trafﬁc noise , and speech-shaped noise . A range results across SNRs, but rather populations. of presentation methods were used including headphones, Overall, the majority of studies found a negative effect of loudspeakers played to individual children, and loudspeak- SNRs below + 10 dB on children’s listening comprehension ers played to the whole class (see Table 1). compared to quiet conditions. This was found across most of the different types of noise sources (one-competing speaker, 7.5 Measures and Methods four-talker babble, classroom noise without speech, unintelli- gible classroom noise, trafﬁc noise, speech-shaped noise, but A range of different tests were used to assess children’s listen- not two-talker babble). Of those studies that assessed multi- ing comprehension across the reviewed studies as shown in ple noise sources, speech distractors had a greater negative 123 Acoustics Australia Table 2 General information for the 10 papers included in the review and effect on children’s listening comprehension Authors Aim Population/age Acoustic conditions Listening comprehension Effect of lower SNR measure Negative None Positive a a Brannstrom et al. (2021) To investigate listening effort Children aged 7–9 years Two conditions: four-talker Speech-picture veriﬁcation x x  and fatigue during listening who were native (n = child babble noise (native, task [62, 63]. Children comprehension under 25) or non-native (n = meaningful) with (1) 0 dB listened to passages and typical and favourable 38) Swedish speakers SNR and (2) + 10 dB SNR then determined whether a listening conditions All had normal hearing Stimuli were presented via pictured object had been headphones. Spatialisation mentioned in the passage not reported. Babble was played at a constant 65 dB SPL b b Grifﬁn et al. (2020)  To measure auditory Children aged 7–12 years Three conditions: (1) quiet, Test of Narrative Language x x comprehension performance with permanent (2) two-talker babble narrative comprehension in school-aged children with unilateral hearing loss (n (native, non-meaningful) subtest . Children unilateral hearing loss and = 25) or normal hearing with + 6dBSNR,and (3) verbally answered a set of with normal hearing in quiet (n = 14) individualised SNR oral comprehension and in the presence of required to achieve 50% questions on each story child-produced two-talker sentence understanding babble (average -8 dB SNR for NH and -4 dB SNR for UHL). Stimuli were presented from a loudspeaker positioned at 0° azimuth. Maskers were presented from loudspeakers positioned at + 60° and − 60° (one talker from each loudspeaker) at a constant level of 55 dBA Klatte et al. (2010)  To assess the effect of noise Children in ﬁrst and third Three conditions: (1) quiet, Execution of complex oral x and reverberation on speech grade (n = 257) and (2) non-native one-talker instructions from perception and listening adults (n = 94) background speech (-3 to Heidelberger comprehension All had normal hearing + 3 dB SNR depending on Sprachentwicklungstest and vision seating location), (3)  and Knuspels classroom noise without Leseaufgaben . speech (-3 to + 4dBSNR Children asked to mark a depending on seating picture that represents the location). Speech signal instructions given presented by loudspeaker at the front of the room at 66 dBA. Noise presentation not reported Acoustics Australia Table 2 (continued) Authors Aim Population/age Acoustic conditions Listening comprehension Effect of lower SNR measure Negative None Positive c c Nirme et al. (2019)  To investigate how children’s Children aged 8–9 years (n Four conditions: (1) CELF-4-Swedish  x x listening comprehension is = 55) audio-only in quiet, (2) Listening Comprehension affected by multi-talker All had normal hearing audio-only in four-child subtest. Child was asked babble noise, with or multi-talker babble noise three content questions, without presentation of a (native, meaningful) (+ one inference question, digitally animated virtual 10 dB SNR), (3) and one summary speaker, and whether audio-visual in quiet, and question. Format of successful comprehension is iv) audio-visual in response not reported related to performance on a four-child multi-talker test of executive functioning babble noise (native, meaningful) (+ 10 dB SNR) Stimuli were presented via headphones. Spatialisation not reported. Speech signal was played at a constant 65 dB SPL Prodi et al. (2021)  To investigate the impact of Children aged 11–13 years Three conditions (1) quiet COMPRENDO Test . x task difﬁculty, listening (n = 161) (SNR > + 15 dB), (2) Children selected picture condition, and individual All had normal hearing road trafﬁc noise (0 dB that best represented the characteristics on speech and no diagnosed SNR), (3) classroom noise sentence communication intellectual disabilities (unintelligible) (0 dB SNR) Speech signal presented by loudspeaker at the front of the classroom at 63 dBA. Noise presented by loudspeaker in a front corner of the classroom at 60 dBA Acoustics Australia Table 2 (continued) Authors Aim Population/age Acoustic conditions Listening comprehension Effect of lower SNR measure Negative None Positive d d Rudner et al. (2018)  To investigate the combined Children aged 8 years Study 2: Four conditions (1) CELF-4  Passage x x effects of background noise, (Study 2: n = 56; Study audio-only in quiet, (2) Comprehension module. voice quality, and visual 4: n = 36) audio-only in four-talker Child answered ﬁve cues on children’s listening All had normal hearing multi-babble child noise questions about each comprehension and effort (native, meaningful) (+ passage to test implicit 10 dB SNR), (3) and explicit audio-visual in quiet, and comprehension. Format of (4) audio-only in response not reported four-talker multi-babble child noise (native, meaningful) (+ 10 dB SNR) Study 4: Four conditions: (1) audio-only in quiet; (2) audio-only in two-talker multi-babble child noise (native, meaningful) (+ 10 dB SNR); (3) two-talker multi-babble child noise (native, meaningful) (+ 10 dB SNR) with congruent visual support; (4) two-talker multi-babble child noise (native, meaningful) (+ 10 dB SNR) with visual information that was incongruent with the noise Stimuli presented over headphones. Sound level and spatialisation not reported Acoustics Australia Table 2 (continued) Authors Aim Population/age Acoustic conditions Listening comprehension Effect of lower SNR measure Negative None Positive e e Schiller et al. (2020)  To investigate noise and Children aged 5–6 years (n Four conditions: (1) normal Évaluation du Language x x speaker’s impaired voice on = 53) voice in quiet (+ 31 to + Oral (ELO) [Oral language comprehension All had normal hearing 33 dB SNR); (2) impaired Language Evaluation] and speech-language voice in quiet (+ 31 to + . Child selected the development 33 dB SNR); (3) normal picture that matched the voice in speech-shaped sentence on a computer noise (0 dB SNR); and (4) screen impaired voice in speech-shaped noise (0 dB SNR) Stimuli presented over headphones. Speech presented at 65 dB Schiller et al. (2021)  To investigate children’s Children in ﬁrst grade (n = Two conditions: speech in a Évaluation du Language x processing of dysphonic 77) (1) normal voice and (2) Oral (ELO) [Oral speech in a realistic All had normal hearing dysphonic voice. Both Language Evaluation] classroom setting with noise and speech-language presented in pre-recorded  sentence-picture development classroom noise (no matching task. Child speech) to whole class (+ 2 marked appropriate to + 9 dB SNR across drawing out of four classrooms) drawings in a booklet Speech played through loudspeaker at the front of the classrooms. Noise played through four loudspeakers in the corners of the classrooms Acoustics Australia Table 2 (continued) Authors Aim Population/age Acoustic conditions Listening comprehension Effect of lower SNR measure Negative None Positive f f Sullivan et al. (2015)  To examine the effect of noise Children aged 8–10 years Two conditions: (1) quiet The Listening x x on auditory comprehension (n = 20) and (2) multi-classroom Comprehension Test 2 and to examine its All had normal hearing noise (− 5dBSNR) . Child answered relationship with working and normal cognition Speech and questions in the following memory and language multi-classroom noises domains: main idea, development played through a details, reasoning, loudspeaker at 0° azimuth vocabulary, and Speech presented at 60 understanding messages. dBA Format of response not reported von Lochow (2018)  To assess the effect of voice Children aged 7–12 years Six conditions: (1) typical CELF-4-Swedish  x quality and competing (n = 49) voice in quiet; (2) typical Passage Comprehension speakers on listening All had normal hearing voice with one competing in the auditory modality comprehension and normal cognition child speaker (native, subtest. Child answered and language meaningful) (+ 5 dB ﬁve questions about the development SNR); (3) typical voice passage. Format of with four competing child response not reported speakers (native, meaningful) (+ 5 dB SNR); (4) dysphonic voice in quiet; (5) dysphonic voice with one competing child speaker (native, meaningful) (+ 5 dB SNR); and (6) dysphonic voice with four competing child speakers (native, meaningful) (+ 5 dB SNR) Presentation not reported Negative effect for non-native listeners, no effect for native listeners This study did not compare performance across SNRs but across populations. Children with unilateral hearing loss perform similarly to children with normal hearing for the quiet and + 6dB SNR conditions, but performed more poorly in the individualised SNR condition Negative effect for content question, no effect for inference question Negative effect of noise for Study 1; no effect of noise for Study 2 Negative effect of noise when stimuli presented in a dysphonic voice, no effect for normal voice Signiﬁcant negative effect of noise for details, reasoning, vocabulary, and understanding messages domains; no effect for main idea domain Acoustics Australia Fig. 12 Visual representation of the results of the reviewed studies. Lines represent when a range of SNRs were assessed. For studies that included a quiet condition without specifying the SNR, and SNR of + 25 dB was allocated for the reference condition affect than classroom noise without speech  and unintel- the results. Schiller et al.  did not ﬁnd an effect of a 0 dB ligible classroom noise had a greater negative affect than road SNR compared to quiet on children listening comprehension trafﬁc noise . For the studies that assessed the effects for using a normal voice for the stimuli, but did ﬁnd a negative different age groups, analyses revealed a more adverse effect effect when a dysphonic voice was used which may reﬂect of noise for younger children [40, 42]. Of the studies that a teacher’s voice if they are experiencing vocal fatigue. von assessed special populations, children with unilateral hear- Lochow , however, did not ﬁnd an effect of typical vs. ing loss or non-native listeners were more affected than their dysphonic speaker in quiet or at + 5dBSNR. peers from typical populations [48, 49]. For the studies that did not ﬁnd an effect, there are a few nuances to note. Schiller et al.  did not ﬁnd an effect of SNR on children’s listening comprehension; however, the 8 Discussion authors did only assess an SNR range of + 2to + 9 dB and did not include a quiet condition. Rudner et al. used The aim of the two scoping reviews was to investigate the two-talker babble as the noise source at a + 10 dB SNR effect of classroom acoustic conditions on children’s numer- compared to quiet which may not have been an SNR low acy performance and listening comprehension. Regarding the enough to see the effects for this type of listening compre- numeracy studies, mixed results were found overall, so it hension task given that SNRs in classrooms range from -16 is difﬁcult to draw ﬁrm conclusions on the effect of differ- to + 23 dB . This SNR was also used by Nirme et al.  ent acoustic conditions on children’s numeracy performance. who did not ﬁnd an effect compared to quiet for inference However, given that several studies did report negative effects questions, but did ﬁnd a negative effect for content questions. of noise on children’s mathematical performance, it is recom- It is possible that children could infer the answer for these mended to keep noise levels in classrooms as low as possible. questions at this SNR without having to properly hear all of Shield and Dockrell  showed a trend of poorer mathemat- the passage accurately like they needed to for the content ics performance from 30 dB upwards with it steepening from questions. This effect of the type of question was also seen 60 dB and above so keeping noise levels below this may be by Prodi et al. , who found a negative effect at − 5dB ideal. SNR compared to quiet for the details, reasoning, vocabulary, Regarding the listening comprehension studies, SNRs and understanding messages domains, but no effect for the below + 10 dB mostly had a negative effect on children’s main idea domain. This suggests that higher-order compre- listening comprehension compared to quiet conditions; how- hension tasks may be more affected by noise. The population ever, variables such as the noise type, SNR tested, the studied is another factor to consider—Brannstrom et al.  listening comprehension domain examined, the population did not ﬁnd an effect of a 0 dB SNR compared to + 10 dB studied, and the voice used for the stimuli affected this. SNR on children’s listening comprehension for native lis- Given these ﬁndings, it would be beneﬁcial to keep noise teners, but did ﬁnd a negative effect for non-native listeners. levels as low as possible, especially for tasks that involve A quiet condition was not included in this study, however. listening comprehension, but this may also be beneﬁcial Additionally, the type of voice used for the stimuli can affect for numeracy tasks. This includes minimising both internal 123 Acoustics Australia classroom noise such as background speech from the chil- 8.2 Future Research Needs dren and movement of objects in the classroom as well as noise from outside the classroom such as road trafﬁc noise. 8.2.1 Noise Type This can be achieved by classroom control of the children, keeping windows closed when there is risk of external noise, The effect of different noise types for chronic noise exposure and installing acoustic treatment and insulation. and acute noise exposure on children’s numeracy perfor- mance would be interesting to further explore, particularly the effect of classroom noise. Noise generated by the children is becoming more of an occurrence due to modern teaching methods and modern classrooms [14–17]. Therefore, assess- 8.1 Limitations of the Reviewed Papers ing children’s numeracy skills in group work activities and innovative learning environments is important. Taking into account the ﬁndings of all of the studies included Regarding listening comprehension, an area for future in the review, there were several limitations that were com- research includes examining the effect of chronic noise mon to both the reviewed numeracy and listening compre- exposure on children’s listening comprehension. All of the hension papers. These create gaps in the current knowledge of reviewed studies concentrated on acute noise exposure dur- how classroom acoustic conditions affect children’s numer- ing the experiment, but it would be interesting to see if exposure to noise while trying to comprehend speech over acy performance and listening comprehension. The ﬁrst limitation is the noise type used. In the numeracy papers, a long period of time (say, several years) affects children’s performance on listening comprehension tests compared to only a handful of studies used classroom noise as the noise source. In the listening comprehension papers, only acute control children who have not been exposed to noise. noise exposure was investigated. No studies investigated the Additionally, different types of noise could be investigated long-term effects of chronic noise exposure. Additionally, further. The majority of studies reviewed assessed listening not all of the noise sources heard in the classroom have been comprehension against one, two, or four competing speakers, investigated, and those that have been investigated have been or classroom noise. Only one study examined the effect of at limited SNRs. Furthermore, the ecological validity of the external noise and this was road trafﬁc noise . It may be beneﬁcial to study other types of noise such as aircraft or created stimuli was often questionable. For example, many studies did not specify whether the speech stimuli and the rail noise which can be heard in classrooms and have been shown to have negative effects on other processes such as noise were spatialised like they are in the real world which affects speech intelligibility . The second limitation is reading and cognition (see  and  for reviews). Though the acoustic parameters investigated. In the numeracy papers, it is important to note from this review that speech distractors only one study investigated the effect of reverberation. In the had a greater negative affect than classroom noise without listening comprehension papers, SNR was the only acous- speech  and unintelligible classroom noise had a greater tic parameter investigated. No studies assessed other room negative affect than road trafﬁc noise . acoustic parameters such as reverberation time. The third It would also be beneﬁcial for future research to include limitation is the population studied. The majority of studies ecologically valid representations of the classroom environ- focused on typically developing children. In the numeracy ment including spatialised stimuli like is found in the real world as this which affects speech intelligibility differently papers, only one study speciﬁcally assessed children with special educational needs (in this case hyperactive children) to non-spatialised stimuli . . In the listening comprehension papers, only two stud- ies explored children with special educational needs (hearing 8.2.2 Acoustic Parameters loss and non-native language listeners) [48, 49]. Additionally, none of the numeracy studies assessed children across the full Reverberation in the classroom is an acoustic feature that primary school age range. The fourth limitation is the types of needs more exploration on how it affects children’s numer- assessments used. In the numeracy papers, only two studies acy performance. Only one study in the numeracy papers assessed mathematical problems presented in the auditory review assessed reverberation time and did so using a small domain and many did not specify what domain (visual or difference of 0.57–0.69 s. However, classroom reverberation auditory) that the stimuli were presented in. In the listening times have been found to vary between 0.2 and 1.9 s . comprehension papers, a large range of tests and different lis- Therefore, it would be beneﬁcial to assess children’s numer- tening comprehension domains were assessed using different acy performance in a larger range of reverberation times and methods making it difﬁcult to draw conclusions across stud- in combination with noise. Assessing other room acoustic ies. Future research needs to address these limitations are parameters such as early decay time (EDT), speech clar- outlined in the following section. ity (C50), and deﬁnition (D50) and how these may affect 123 Acoustics Australia children’s numeracy performance may also be helpful as a academic achievement . It is important that the socioe- signiﬁcant positive correlation between reading speed and conomic background of the participants is controlled for speech clarity has been found . in these studies, especially when considering chronic noise Regarding listening comprehension, it would also be exposure in different schools, and when conducting experi- worthwhile assessing the effect of these other room acous- mental tests with different groups of children completing the tic parameters including reverberation. It is well known that different conditions. Cohen et al.  raised the point that the noise combined with reverberation has an even more detri- results of their study should be taken with caution as school mental effect on speech intelligibility . Therefore, it would and district teaching policy, teaching quality, level of federal be beneﬁcial to assess the effect of noise and different rever- aid to a school, and school administration were not controlled beration times on children’s listening comprehension. This in choosing the schools which may have a greater effect would provide more evidence for what reverberation time than noise on children’s mathematics performance. While should be achieved in classrooms. Haines et al.  found a decrease in children’s mathemat- It would also be beneﬁcial to investigate children’s listen- ics performance as the noise level increased in an unadjusted ing comprehension across a range of SNRs in the one study analysis, once the data were adjusted for socioeconomic sta- using the same methods. The majority of studies reviewed tus (children with free school meals), the association was assessed children’s listening comprehension in one chosen no longer signiﬁcant. Therefore, it is very important that SNR compared to quiet, and these chosen SNRs varied from socioeconomic background is taken into consideration when + 10 dB to − 5 dB. Overall, it appears that children’s perfor- analysing results. mance is poorer at these SNRs compared to quiet; however, Only one of the numeracy studies speciﬁcally assessed it would be beneﬁcial to assess at what SNR listening com- children with special educational needs (in this case hyperac- prehension begins to be compromised and how much it is tive children) and found that these children performed better affected by lowering the SNR. For adequate speech percep- in low noise . Johansson  did, however, analyse the tion, it is generally accepted that the SNR needs to be at least results in terms of children with high intelligence and low + 15 dB [8, 11]. It would be interesting to explore whether intelligence and found children with low intelligence showed this is similar for listening comprehension which has the ben- a trend of poorer performance in noise though this was not eﬁt of contextual cues for ﬁlling in missing information, but signiﬁcant. Therefore, more research with children who have has higher processing demands. special educational needs is needed as these children may be more affected by noise than their typically developing peers. This research should include children with autism who 8.2.3 Population have been found to show more repetitive behaviours such as repetitive motor movements, repetitive speech, ear covering, Conducting research on the effect of different acoustic con- hitting, loud vocalisations, blinking, and verbally complain- ditions on children’s numeracy performance across the age ing in higher classroom noise conditions . Children with range is important to assess to see if the maturation trends of English as a second language is another group that would older children being less affected by noise on their numer- beneﬁt from research as they can have difﬁculty listening in acy performance are true. Research shows these maturation the presence of noise and reverberation . effects for speech perception in noise with older children More research is also needed investigating the effect of different classroom acoustic conditions on listening compre- and adults having gradually better performance than younger children  so it would be interesting to assess if there is a hension for children with special educational needs. Out of the 10 reviewed studies, only two papers investigated chil- maturation effect for numeracy performance in noise in the auditory domain, but also in the visual domain. Although dren with special educational needs (Brannstrom et al.  a clear age trend was not obvious when aggregating the who included non-native listeners and Grifﬁn et al. who reviewed studies together, three studies that did examine dif- included children with unilateral hearing loss) and both of ferent age groups in the same conditions in this review found these papers found poorer performance by the special pop- a negative effect of noise on the younger children in their ulation at adverse SNRs compared to their typical peers. sample compared to the older children [31, 36, 37]. Alterna- Therefore, it would be beneﬁcial to look at other popula- tively, however, a longer duration of exposure to noise could tions such as children with different degrees of bilateral result in an increased negative build-up effect of noise on chil- hearing, children with attention deﬁcit hyperactivity disor- der, and children with autism spectrum disorder to see how dren’s numeracy development. Therefore, further exploring the effect of noise over the schooling age span is important. they perform in different acoustic conditions and compared to a control group. Furthermore, the socioeconomic background of the par- ticipants is important to consider as there is a medium to strong relationship between socioeconomic background and 123 Acoustics Australia 8.2.4 Assessment Type et al. , a study like this may show that higher-order com- prehension tasks are more affected by noise and be able to Presentation type is another factor to take into consideration determine at what SNRs these effects take place. This would when considering the effect of different classroom acoustic provide more evidence for what SNRs should be achieved in conditions on children’s numeracy performance. A range of classrooms. test presentations were found in this review including writ- There are a couple of methods that could be suitable when ten presentation, auditory presentation, numerical equations, considering how to conduct future research on the effect of and problems in word form. Exploring if there is a different different classroom acoustic conditions on children’s numer- effect of noise on these presentations would be interesting, acy performance and listening comprehension. Testing can for example, if there is a difference for problems expressed be carried out directly in the real classroom which provides in numbers or in words. Additionally, the effect on prob- ecological validity. However, if the researcher is after more lems that are presented visually in written form versus aurally control in manipulating the classroom acoustic conditions, would be beneﬁcial to explore. If the presentation is in the the testing could be completed in the laboratory using an auditory domain, then it is important to note that speech intel- auralised classroom environment. Using computer software, ligibility and processing speed can be negatively affected different classroom acoustic conditions can be generated and [57, 58]. If the presentation is in the visual domain, noise manipulated and then played to children while assessing their can have a negative effect on children’s visual short-term performance on numeracy tasks. This means that different memory, reading, and writing performance (see [4, 5], and acoustic conditions could be examined as well as the effect  for reviews). In terms of outcome measures to assess, of acoustic treatment without the expense of setting these including both accuracy of solving the mathematical prob- conditions up in a real classroom. Schiller et al. dis- lem and speed of response is useful as included in several of cussed the limitations of laboratory and ﬁeld methods in the studies reviewed [33, 36–38]. Response times can be a their paper and attempted to bridge the gap between the useful measure of cognitive processing capacity . Task two. This was achieved by testing children in their habitual difﬁculty is another factor to consider as Caviola et al.  classrooms with their peers during school hours using stim- found better performance in quiet and trafﬁc noise compared uli presented in a diffuse ﬁeld via loudspeakers rather than to classroom noise for low difﬁculty problems, but no dif- by headphones without spatialisation. Furthermore, Doggett ference for high difﬁculty problems. A study on adults with et al.  combined an auralised classroom environment with different workplace noises showed that simple tasks are more virtual reality to assess whether acoustic treatment reduced affected by the level of the noise present, whereas difﬁcult the effects of ambient noise on cognitive performance, phys- tasks are affected by the type of noise—in particular, inter- iological stress, and mood in university students. The virtual mittent and ﬂuctuating noise distract attention and memory, headset provided a 360 degree view of a classroom, while more than a higher level of steady noise . Although this conditions consisting of no noise, untreated room noise, and study did not involve numeracy tasks, attention and memory treated room noise were played. The authors concluded that are important processes for completing mathematical prob- this virtual reality set-up was an effective and efﬁcient way lems. Exploring the effects of different noise types in children to evaluate the effects of different acoustic conditions on for numeracy tasks varying in difﬁculty would therefore be university students’ cognition. While this study was con- of interest. ducted with university students, advancements in technology Regarding listening comprehension, it would be beneﬁcial can potentially provide creative, realistic options of assess- to assess a range of listening comprehension processes. A test ing the impact of different classroom acoustic conditions on that may be helpful for this is the Listening Comprehension children’s classroom performance. There is still room for Test 2  as used by Sullivan et al. . This test covers a making the task and stimuli more representative of the real range of listening process needed in classroom: “The test, as classroom environment. Building on this method of bridging closely as possible, models the type of listening required in the gap between the laboratory and the ﬁeld in the future will the classroom. The student must determine what part of the be beneﬁcial for making sure assessments are conducted in message needs immediate attention, organise and understand an ecologically valid way that transfers to the real classroom the input, and plan appropriate responses. In order to respond, acoustic environment so recommendations on the acoustic the student must integrate the communication skills of vocab- conditions needed for accurate numeracy performance and ulary and semantics, syntax and morphology, phonology, and listening comprehension can be made. thinking.” . This test assesses the main idea, details, rea- soning, vocabulary, and understanding messages. It would therefore be beneﬁcial to use this test across a range of SNRs using the same methods to see how the different listening comprehension domains are affected. As seen by Sullivan 123 Acoustics Australia 9 Conclusions Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adap- tation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as The ﬁrst scoping review synthesised research that assessed long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the the effect of different classroom acoustic conditions on pri- source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indi- mary school children’s numeracy performance. Overall, the cate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, majority of studies showed a negative effect or no effect of unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material noise on mathematics performance, however, there were a is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your couple of studies that showed a positive effect. This moti- intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the vates the need for future research assessing the effects of permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copy- right holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecomm different noise types and levels on children in different years ons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. of primary school to gather a clearer picture of the effect. As well as assessing the effect of age and noise type, this future research could also include controlled studies of reverbera- tion, numeracy problem presentation type, and the impact on Appendix A: Summary of Outcomes children with different special educational needs. Although for Numeracy Studies deﬁnitive conclusions could not be drawn on the impact of noise on children’s numeracy performance, the fact that many Chronic Noise Exposure studies did show a negative effect demonstrates that it would be beneﬁcial to keep classroom noise levels low as a precau- Two studies assessed the effect of aircraft noise on children’s tion. mathematics achievement. Cohen et al.  found that chil- The second scoping review provided a synthesis of what dren in noise-abated schools had signiﬁcantly better scores is known from the literature about the effect of different on the mathematics achievement test compared to both the classroom acoustic conditions on primary school children’s schools with high aircraft noise and low aircraft noise. How- listening comprehension. The majority of reviewed studies ever, these results should be taken with caution as the authors used babble or classroom noise as the noise source. Over- note that school and district teaching policy, teaching qual- all, it was found that SNRs below + 10 dB mostly have a ity, level of federal aid to a school, and school administration negative effect on children’s listening comprehension com- were not controlled in choosing the schools which may have pared to quiet conditions, however, variables such as the a greater effect than noise on children’s mathematics perfor- noise type, SNR tested, the listening comprehension domain mance. Haines et al.  found that children’s mathematics examined, the population studied, and the voice used for performance decreased by 0.73 of a mark as the noise level the stimuli, can affect this. This review identiﬁed impor- increased in each 3 dB contour band, However, once the tant gaps in knowledge of how the acoustic conditions of data were adjusted for socioeconomic status (based on chil- classrooms affect children’s listening comprehension and dren with free school meals), the association was no longer proposed future research ideas to help ﬁll these gaps. signiﬁcant. These results show that aircraft noise may nega- Overall, these two scoping reviews showed that poor tively affect children’s mathematical performance; however, classroom acoustic conditions can have a negative effect on it is important when designing such chronic noise exposure children’s listening comprehension in particular, but can also studies that the socioeconomic status and other educational affect their numeracy performance. However, many future factors are matched as closely as possible between noise- research opportunities were revealed due to some mixed exposed schools and control schools as these factors may results and gaps in the current literature. inﬂuence the results. Two studies assessed the effect of road trafﬁc noise on Funding Open Access funding enabled and organized by CAUL and its children’s mathematics achievement. Papanikolaou et al.  Member Institutions. The author discloses no ﬁnancial or non-ﬁnancial found that children from schools with low trafﬁc noise lev- interests that are directly or indirectly related to the work submitted for els had signiﬁcantly better scores than children in high-level publication. noise schools. Additionally, children from low-level noise schools and medium-level noise schools had signiﬁcantly higher task completion rate than children in high-level noise Declarations schools. All schools had a similar socioeconomic back- Conﬂict of interest The author discloses no competing interests that are ground. These results show the negative effect that chronic directly or indirectly related to this work. exposure to everyday road trafﬁc noise at levels of 72–80 dB can have on children’s mathematical performance. Shield Informed Consent This study does not include research with humans and Dockrell  also assessed the effect of external noise and/or animals. Informed consent is not applicable. (mainly road trafﬁc noise, range = 30–80 dB L ) and Aeq 123 Acoustics Australia found a signiﬁcant negative relationship between external than in low noise condition. There were no signiﬁcant dif- noise and Year 2 and Year 6 children’s mathematics scores. ferences between the two groups in terms of age, IQ, or These results are consistent with Papanikolaou et al.  achievement. Caviola et al.  found that 11-year-olds had demonstrating the negative effect of chronic exposure to road signiﬁcantly better aural mental calculation in quiet and traf- trafﬁc noise on children’s mathematical performance. ﬁc noise compared to irrelevant classroom noise (typical Two studies assessed the effect of heating and/or cooling working classroom sounds mixed with a ﬂuctuating stan- mechanical noise on children’s mathematics achievement. dard noise signal of Italian speech which is unintelligible). No signiﬁcant correlations between mathematics test score For the 12-year-olds, there were signiﬁcantly better scores in and noise level were found in either the study by Ronsse quiet only compared to irrelevant classroom noise. For the and Wang  or Ronsse and Wang . These results sug- 13-year-olds, no statistically signiﬁcant difference between gest that chronic exposure to the ambient noise from heating listening conditions was found. In terms of the difﬁculty and/or cooling systems in the range of 34–55 dBA does not of the mathematical equation, the authors found better per- affect children’s mathematical performance. formance in quiet and trafﬁc noise compared to irrelevant Two studies assessed the effect of occupied classroom classroom noise for low difﬁculty problems, but no differ- noise on children’s mathematics achievement. Shield and ence for high difﬁculty problems. Regarding response times, noise levels were Dockrell  found that occupied L the authors did not report the effect of listening condition by A90 negatively correlated with Year 2 children’s mathematics age group. They did report the interaction between listening scores, but not Year 6 children’s mathematics scores. Shield condition and level of difﬁculty, with the results the same and Dockrell  found a negative relationship between as for accuracy, i.e. faster performance in quiet and trafﬁc internal noise level and children’s mathematics scores; how- noise compared to classroom noise for low difﬁculty prob- ever, this was not signiﬁcant. These results are mixed but lems, but no difference for high difﬁculty problems. These suggest that occupied classroom noise may affect mathemat- results show that babble, intelligible classroom noise, and ical performance in younger children. irrelevant classroom noise can have a detrimental effect on children’s mathematical performance, especially for younger Acute Noise Exposure children or hyperactive children. The ﬁnding of Zentall and Shaw  that control children performed signiﬁcantly bet- Six studies included babble, intelligible classroom noise, or ter in the high noise condition than in low noise condition, irrelevant classroom noise as the noise source of acute expo- however, was interesting and is unpacked more in the discus- sion. sure in an experimental format. Negative effects of noise were found in four studies (though some results depended Two studies did not ﬁnd effects of irrelevant speech on the population characteristics). Dockrell and Shield  or intelligible speech noise on mathematical performance. found that children performed signiﬁcantly better in a quiet Ljung et al.  found no signiﬁcant differences in per- condition than a children’s babble condition. Performance formance between quiet, road trafﬁc noise or irrelevant in a babble and environmental noise condition was not sta- speech (unintelligible babble and intelligible conversation tistically signiﬁcantly different to that in the quiet condition segments) conditions. Kassinove  found that there was or babble condition. Different groups of children completed no effect of any of the noise conditions [i.e. (1) quiet; (2) the different noise conditions; however, so group differences stories; (3) popular music; (4) music and stories simulta- neously presented from the same source; or (5) music and may have contributed to these results. Meinhardt-Injac et al.  found younger children showed poorer accuracy dur- stories simultaneously presented from the different sources] on the children’s mean time per response, the variability of ing irrelevant speech (foreign language reading of a Danish newspaper article) compared to the baseline condition. How- response times, the number of correct responses, or the proba- ever, for older children, there was not a signiﬁcant effect bility of error (number wrong divided by number attempted). of irrelevant speech or irrelevant classroom noise (typical The change in response time over the 45 min assessment was classroom sounds without speech) on the proportion of cor- not signiﬁcant either. The only signiﬁcant ﬁnding was that rect responses compared to a pink noise baseline condition. children tended to have more time-outs (i.e. a period where The same result was found when analysing the children’s the child turned away from the task and looked to tune out reaction time. Zentall and Shaw  found that hyperac- for 2 s or more) the longer the task went for. These results tive children performed poorer in a high noise condition of conﬂict with the results in the previous paragraph that show a negative effect of intelligible or irrelevant speech noise on intelligible classroom noise (real recordings of grade two children during free time with high linguistic content from children’s mathematical performance. Therefore, the overall ﬁnding for this speech/classroom noise source category is the children and teacher speaking) compared to a low noise condition; however, control children that were not hyperac- mixed and inconclusive. tive performed signiﬁcantly better in the high noise condition 123 Acoustics Australia One study assessed children’s mathematical performance across populations rather than SNRs so this analysis was in octave band noise. Johansson  found that children with not conducted. (And there would have been issues with the high intelligence solved more items in continuous and inter- presentations not being counterbalanced.) The analyses that mittent noise than in quiet conditions. However, this was not were conducted showed that children with unilateral hear- the case for children with low intelligence who showed a ing loss perform similarly to children with normal hearing trend of poorer performance in noise though this was not in favourable listening conditions (i.e. quiet, + 6dBSNR), signiﬁcant. Different groups of children completed the dif- but in challenging listening conditions (individualised SNR), ferent noise conditions, however, so group differences may many children with unilateral hearing loss performed more have contributed to these results. These results show that the poorly than the children with normal hearing. effect of octave band noise on mathematical performance may be different for different children. Acute Reverberation Exposure Four-Talker Babble Finally, one study assessed the effect of reverberation of chil- dren’s mental calculation of an aurally presented stimulus. Brannstrom et al.  assessed the effect of four-talker child Prodi and Visentin  found that the effect of reverbera- babble noise (native and meaningful) on children’s listening tion on accuracy was only apparent in the classroom noise comprehension at a typical SNR (0 dB SNR) and a favourable condition and depended on the grade of the children with SNR (+ 10 dB SNR). A negative effect of the lower SNR younger children performing poorer than older children in the was found for non-native listeners, but there was no effect longer reverberation condition but not the shorter condition. for native listeners. No signiﬁcant effects of reverberation and listening condi- Nirme et al.  assessed children’s listening compre- tion on reaction time were found. Different groups of children hension in audio-only in quiet, audio-only in four-child completed the different reverberation conditions, however, so multi-talker babble noise (native, meaningful) (+ 10 dB group differences may have contributed to these results. This SNR), audio-visual in quiet, and audio-visual in four-child result shows the negative impact that noise combined with a multi-talker babble noise (native, meaningful) (+ 10 dB longer reverberation time can have on children’s mathemat- SNR). The authors found a negative effect of noise for content ical performance, particularly for younger children. question on the listening comprehension test, but no effect for the inference question. Visual presentation of the stimuli by the virtual speaker showed a marginally signiﬁcant effect Appendix B: Summary of Outcomes of reducing the effect of noise compared to audio-only. The for Listening Comprehension Studies child’s executive functioning helped their listening compre- hension in quiet, but not in noise. Two-Talker Babble Rudner et al.  also investigated the effect of four listening conditions on children’s listening comprehension: Rudner et al.  conducted four studies investigating back- (1) audio-only in quiet, (2) audio-only in four-talker multi- ground noise, voice quality, and visual cues effects on babble child noise (native, meaningful) (+ 10 dB SNR), (3) children’s listening comprehension. For Study 4, the four audio-visual iin quiet, and (4) audio-only in four-talker multi- conditions investigated were: (1) audio-only in quiet; (2) babble child noise (native, meaningful) (+ 10 dB SNR). There audio-only in two-talker multi-babble child noise (native, was a signiﬁcant negative effect of four-talker multi-babble meaningful) (+ 10 dB SNR); (3) two-talker multi-babble child noise on children’s listening comprehension. child noise (native, meaningful) (+ 10 dB SNR) with con- von Lochow  assessed children’s listening compre- gruent visual support; and (4) two-talker multi-babble child hension in six conditions: (1) typical voice in quiet; (2) typical noise (native, meaningful) (+ 10 dB SNR) with visual infor- voice with one competing child speaker (native, meaningful) mation that was incongruent with the noise. The authors, (+ 5 dB SNR); (3) typical voice with four competing child however, did not ﬁnd any signiﬁcant differences between speakers (native, meaningful) (+ 5 dB SNR); (4) dyspho- conditions. nic voice in quiet; (5) dysphonic voice with one competing Grifﬁn et al.  assessed listening comprehension in chil- child speaker (native, meaningful) (+ 5 dB SNR); and (6) dren with normal hearing and children with unilateral hearing dysphonic voice with four competing child speakers (native, loss in quiet, two-talker babble (native but non-meaningful) meaningful) (+ 5 dB SNR). The authors found a signiﬁcant with a + 6 dB SNR, and two-talker babble with an individu- effect of background noise but no effect of the number of alised SNR required to achieve 50% sentence understanding. competing speakers. There was no effect of typical vs. dys- The purpose of this paper was to compare performance phonic speaker. 123 Acoustics Australia Classroom Noise 1. 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Acoustics Australia – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 1, 2023
Keywords: Numeracy; Mathematics; Listening comprehension; Classroom acoustics; Noise; Children
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