A central question in this short review is ‘does noise affect learning’? While this is a research often examined with adults, this review by Klatte, Bergström and Lachmann, focuses specific on research concerning both acute and chronic effects of exposure to noise on children’s cognitive performance.
Their conclusion is very clear:
The reviewed studies document harmful effects of noise on children’s learning.
Children are much more impaired than adults by noise in tasks involving speech perception and listening comprehension. Non-
auditory tasks such as short-term memory, reading and writing are also impaired by noise. Depending on the nature of the tasks and sounds, these impairments may result from specific interference with perceptual and cognitive processes involved in the focal task, and/or from a more general attention capture process.
Concerning chronic effects, despite inconsistencies within and across studies, the available evidence indicates that enduring exposure to environmental noise may affect children’s cognitive development. Even though the reported effects are usually small in magnitude, they have to be taken seriously in view of possible long-term effects and the accumulation of risk factors in noise-exposed children (Evans, 2004). Obviously, the findings reported in this review have practical implications for the acoustical design of schools, for the placement of schools in the vicinity of airports, and for the policy of noise abatement.