This document has been retired. The American Academy of Audiology supports the improvement of acoustical properties of classrooms in order that all students may better hear their teachers (direct instruction) and peers (indirect instruction).

Key Points

In order to address the issue of improving classroom acoustics, the classroom acoustics standard of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI S12.60-2002, Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, and Guidelines for Schools) was approved in 2002. ANSI S12.60 recommended maximum noise and reverberation times for all new and significantly renovated school construction. The standard specified that noise levels in core learning spaces should not exceed 35 dBA throughout each classroom (unoccupied). The 35 dBA maximum noise level ensured that the level of direct instruction (which would be approximately 50-65 dBA depending on the location of the student and teacher) would achieve the appropriate sound level required by students to hear their teachers and peers with minimal difficulty, and with reduced vocal strain from the individual speaking. The standard also specified that reverberation times not exceed 0.6 seconds (unoccupied). This would improve speech intelligibility for students by maintaining the temporal integrity of the source signal.

S12.60-2002 was revised (ANSI S12.60-2010 [R2015]), Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, and Guidelines for Schools, Part 1: Permanent Schools. The core parameters of the standard were unchanged with the exception of a requirement that primary learning spaces be readily adaptable to reverberation times as short as 0.3 seconds. In addition, a second set of guidelines, ANSI S12.60-2009, Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, and Guidelines for Schools, Part 2: Relocatable Classroom Factors was published. This document addresses some of the unique challenges posed by modular classrooms that have become prevalent in the US in recent years. Both standards maintain, at their core, an emphasis on ensuring appropriate signal-to-noise ratios, in all learning spaces, to ensure both audibility and intelligibility of direct and indirect instruction for all students.

The American Academy of Audiology endorses both the ANSI S12.60-2010, Part 1 standard, and the ANSI S12.60- 2009, Part 2 standard, and recommends the adoption of these standards by all schools, school boards, and school districts.

Get Involved

Whether serving on a clinical document development panel or participating as peer reviewers, volunteers have regular chances to deepen their engagement with the Academy and make important contributions benefiting the field of audiology. If you are interested in clinical document development, please volunteer to express interest and submit a CV to the Academy’s guidelines staff by email.

To view the list of guidelines and strategic documents in development and to learn more about the Academy’s clinical document development process, visit the Academy’s Practice Resources website. Information from interested members is accepted on an ongoing basis, and members will be contacted as clinical document volunteer openings occur.

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