Noise in early childhood education centres: the effects on the children and their teachers : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

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Although the effects of noise on children’s learning in school classrooms is well documented, there is very little on the effects of noise on preschool children. There are strict legal requirements for the daily noise exposure an adult worker can received in the workplace but nothing to control the noise children can receive in school and early education. There is also little or no data on how sound affects a child, compared to an adult. The early years of life are critical for the development of speech, hearing and auditory processes, as well as being the most vulnerable time for middle ear infections. This work sets out to determine the typical noise levels in early childhood centres and the effects on a range of children and their teachers. Reverberation times in most centres were found to well exceed the 0.6 seconds prescribed by the Australasian standard for schools and learning spaces. Very high levels of noise were recorded in a number of centres with a significant number of children and staff members, exceeding the maximum daily sound exposure of 100% permitted for workers in industry. A range of special needs children were identified as being particularly at-risk to noise, with the most adverse outcomes reported for those experiencing sensory integration disorder. Yet, even though high levels of noise were recorded, the majority of respondents in a survey of teachers rated the lack of sufficient space for the number of children present as the main issue, and inclement weather as the greatest environmental condition contributing to noise (by confining children indoors, especially over long periods of time). Hearing tests on the children were not permitted under the strict human ethics criteria to which this study had to conform, but simple hearing tests on a small group of teachers, revealed that hearing loss could be a serious occupational health issue. The legal issues of noise control and management in early childhood education have been addressed in this thesis, current legal frameworks reviewed, and recommendations presented for future consideration.
Hearing, Reverberation, Sound exposure, Occupational health