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Children & Noise

February 14, 2016

Research suggests that children can’t filter out noise the way adults can, with profound implications for learning.



Cutting noise to boost learning. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If you’re listening to this story despite traffic noise [honk, honk], people talking [cocktail party talk and laughter], and – let’s say – a peacock calling [peacock call], your brain is accomplishing an amazing feat. Rochelle Newman is chair of the University of Maryland Department of Hearing and Speech Science. At the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, she said that this ability to focus on important sounds comes with age, and is nearly impossible for children.

ROCHELLE NEWMAN (University of Maryland):

They tend to have more difficulty when the noise is varying, because they get distracted more easily, they have more difficulty paying attention to the right thing, and they can’t use differences between different people’s voices to help tell them apart as easily.


The bottom line is that adults need to reduce background sounds in any environments in which they expect children to learn. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.