If you’ve been in a busy restaurant or bar, you’ll have experienced the “Lombard effect”. It’s our tendency to talk louder as the noise levels around us increase, creating a vicious cycle of noise pollution. In a restaurant, the resulting cacophony is little more than an irritation. But in schools and hospitals, the Lombard effect has more serious consequences.
Half of teachers in a recent study had suffered permanent damage to their voices because of the need to shout to make themselves heard in noisy classrooms1. Research shows that students suffer, too. When they performed a task against background noise, 25 percent of primary school children demonstrated a drop in memory performance. And a 20dB rise in general noise pollution has been shown to delay the reading age of 9-10 year olds by up to eight months2.