Objectives.The general objectives of this dissertationwere to examine the effects of acute exposure to meaningfulirrelevant speech and road traffic noise on memory performance,and to explore annoyance responses to noise exposure in theschool environment for pupils and teachers in different agegroups.
Methods. The thesis comprises seven papers, representingdifferent methodological approaches: experiments, surveystudies and interviews. In the experiments, reported in PapersI-V, 288 pupils and teachers participated in the age groups,13-14 years (n=96), 18-20 years (n=96), 35-45 years (n=48) and55-65 years (n=48). The subjects were randomly assigned to oneof three conditions: (a) meaningful irrelevant speech, (b) roadtraffic noise, and (c) silence. The equivalent sound level inthe noise conditions was set to 66 dB(A). A test batteryreflecting episodic and semantic memory were used. The surveystudies, reported in Paper VI and VII, included 207 pupils(M=13.5) and 166 teachers (M=45.9). Two separate questionnairesmainly comprising items about annoyance, noise sensitivity andstress symptoms were administered. Paper VI presents results offocus group interviews (n=16) treating the main topics:disturbing sounds, emotions, ongoing activity, and suggestionsconcerning future changes. Results. The overall findings showedthat both noise sources affected episodic and semantic memoryto the same degree for all age groups. The results indicatedthat the similarity of semantic content between noise and thetask at hand was not the only suitable explanation model, sincea non-speech noise impaired memory as much as speech.
Resultsalso indicated that attention effects did notmediate the obtained noise effects and that the noise effectsdid not differ between age groups. Therefore, it seemedunlikely that different memory and attentional capacities stoodout as explanatory factors of the memory effects. Sinceperformances of both episodic and semantic memory tasks wereimpaired, the explanation based on level of access to long-termmemory was also ruled out. However, the episodic memory task,reading comprehension, stood out to be most impaired by noise,suggesting that complexity of the task to perform was ofimportance. For reading comprehension there was also adifferent noise pattern obtained. Participants performance wasin this task, more impaired by meaningful irrelevant speechthan by road traffic noise. This effect indicated thatmeaningful irrelevant speech might reduce the availablecognitive resources necessary for learning the text. Theannoyance models derived from the survey studies indicated thatsensitivity acted as a mediator between hearing status andannoyance, with stress symptoms as an outcome. Whetherannoyance arises or not was also determined by control andpredictability of the noise. In the interviews a differentannoyance pattern was found, in that stress symptoms appearedto be a determinant of annoyance. To be involved, respected,take own responsibility and respect others were suggestions onhow to change the environment to become more silent.
Conclusions.For both pupils and teachers acute exposureto meaningful irrelevant speech and road traffic noiseinfluenced both the achieving and providing of knowledge. Acommon annoyance pattern was also found for pupils andteachers, where individual and situational factors were ofimportance. To achieve a more silent school environment in thefuture, the pupils pointed out that the interaction betweenthemselves and their teachers was of importance.
Key words:Noise, meaningful irrelevant speech, roadtraffic noise, memory, age groups, school environment, pupils,teachers
Stockholm: Byggvetenskap , 2004. , 59 p.
Noise, meaningful irrelevant speech, road traffic noise, memory, age group, school environment, pupils, teachers