Classroom Acoustics: Why They Matter and How to Improve Them

It’s no secret that meaningful learning relies on understanding and comprehending the lesson content. Unfortunately, the presence of excessive noise in a classroom can hinder this. In fact, excessive noise and reverberation can cause students to miss up to 25% of information. Classroom noise encompasses more than just students talking; various other elements contribute to the challenges of hearing and understanding within a learning environment. However, more institutions are opening their eyes to the importance of enhanced acoustics, and for good reason.

Defining Classroom Acoustics

Let’s break down exactly what we mean by classroom acoustics. In basic terms, it refers to the sound quality and noise levels in an educational space. The quality of acoustics has a significant impact on the intelligibility of speech and the ability of students to comprehend information. Essentially, classroom acoustics play an important role in how students learn. 

Classroom Acoustics and Mental Health 

Beyond that, poor acoustics can impact students’ mental health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the physical setting within educational institutions plays a significant role in promoting health. Of the various environmental stressors, excessive noise levels can lead to irritation, foster aggression, hinder physical and mental performance, and result in discomfort and headaches. 
So, how can this be approached? Before looking at possible solutions, it’s important to realise exactly why improved classroom acoustics can make a significant difference. 

Speech Intelligibility

Students rely on hearing and understanding their teachers’ instructions, lectures, and discussions. However, background noise makes speech muffled, distorted, or drowned out when a classroom has poor acoustics. This can hinder students’ comprehension and lead to missed educational opportunities.

Due to this, students who need help understanding spoken information due to poor acoustics may become disengaged and frustrated. Teachers might need to repeat themselves frequently, disrupting the flow of the lesson and potentially causing distractions. By optimising classroom acoustics, educators can create an environment where speech intelligibility is enhanced, fostering better communication and promoting effective learning.

Attention and Concentration

A noisy classroom environment affects speech intelligibility and students’ ability to concentrate and maintain attention. Excessive background noise, echoes, and reverberation can create a cognitive load that competes with the students’ mental resources, making it difficult for them to focus on the task at hand.

Poor acoustics compromise students’ overall learning experience. Students may miss essential details and instructions in such environments, leading to stunted academic performance and reduced engagement. By ensuring optimal classroom acoustics, educators can minimise distractions and provide students with a conducive space for concentration, ultimately enhancing their learning outcomes.

Inclusive Education

Classroom acoustics also play a crucial role in fostering inclusive education. Students with hearing impairments, auditory processing disorders, or language barriers are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of poor acoustics. With appropriate acoustic conditions, these students can access educational content and participate fully in classroom activities.
By prioritising inclusive design principles when considering classroom acoustics, schools can create an environment that supports the needs of all students. Implementing measures such as sound-absorbing materials, strategic seating arrangements, and assistive listening devices can significantly enhance accessibility, ensuring every student has an equal opportunity to learn and succeed.

How to Improve Classroom Acoustics 

Now that we know the benefits enhanced classroom acoustics can offer, the question remains: how can it be approached? Let’s cover some steps any school can take to ensure their students gain the most from their learning environment. 

Absorbers and Diffusers

By installing absorbers and diffusers in a classroom, the level of undesirable noise, such as echo and reverberation, can be significantly reduced. Absorbers, typically made of materials like foam or fabric, absorb sound energy, preventing it from bouncing back and creating echoes. 
Conversely, diffusers scatter sound waves, helping to disperse sound evenly throughout the space. By strategically placing absorbers and diffusers, the acoustics of the classroom can be improved, promoting better speech intelligibility and reducing distractions.


Biophilic design is an architectural approach that aims to reconnect building occupants with nature. Integrating natural elements, such as plants and green walls, into classroom design can positively impact acoustics. A study conducted on modular green walls found that they significantly reduced sound levels, with a weighted sound reduction index of 15 dB and a weighted sound absorption coefficient of 0.40. 
The uneven surfaces of plants and shrubbery help to scatter sound waves, reducing echoes and the intensity of sound. Integrating biophilic design principles by incorporating plants and natural materials into the classroom can enhance both aesthetics and acoustics.

Softer Surfaces 

Soft furnishings, such as carpets, rugs, and upholstered furniture, play a crucial role in absorbing sound. Hard surfaces, like walls and floors, tend to reflect sound waves, leading to increased reverberation. Increasing the amount of soft furniture in the classroom can enhance sound absorption, reducing noise levels and improving speech clarity. Soft surfaces also help create a more comfortable and inviting learning environment.


Curtains are not just decorative elements but also contribute to noise reduction in the classroom. Solid walls and windows can reflect sound waves, while curtains absorb and disperse energy. Their thick and tightly woven materials provide fewer avenues for sound energy to escape, reducing noise pollution. Educators can create a more acoustically balanced space by incorporating curtains into the classroom design.


Fabrics, particularly cotton, can be excellent acoustic materials due to their sound-absorbing properties. Cotton-based soundproofing materials can absorb, disperse, and contain sound, contributing to better acoustics in the classroom. Using fabrics in wall coverings, drapes, or upholstery can help to minimise sound reflections and improve speech intelligibility.

Ceiling and Floor Panels

Wall panels can be installed in classrooms to create solid noise barriers, effectively blocking out external noise and reducing reverberation. These panels can come in various shapes and colours, adding a vibrant and visually appealing element to the classroom while maximising acoustic properties. 
Hard surfaces like walls can also be covered with fabric, cork, or other soft materials that absorb sound, further reducing noise pollution. Similarly, hard classroom floors can be covered with carpets or area rugs to minimise impact noise caused by walking or moving furniture.
Ultimately, creating an ideal learning environment involves paying attention to the acoustic quality of the classroom. By understanding the significance of classroom acoustics and implementing practical measures to improve them, educational institutions can enhance students’ educational experiences. Clear communication, improved concentration, and an inclusive learning environment are just some benefits of prioritising good acoustics. Let’s strive to create classrooms that optimise every student’s educational potential.


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