Classroom Sound

If students can’t hear the instructor clearly, class is over before it starts. How can classroom audio technology help?

You’d be shocked to learn how much kids miss in class. And frankly, so would they.

FrontRow classroom sound systems overcome a problem most people aren’t even aware of — that 25% of what the teacher says in class never reaches students’ brains. In the back of the classroom, the amount of missing information approaches 40%.


Numerous studies report remarkable benefits from the use of FrontRow, including doubled reading growth, greater student achievement, easier classroom management, and heightened teacher energy.

Children can't listen like adults do.

The key to understanding why FrontRow classroom sound systems — also known as 'soundfield' systems — work rests in recognizing that kids are not smaller versions of their parents and teachers. Until children are about 13 years old, the brain structures needed to help them effectively listen in less-than-ideal conditions aren't fully developed — with some aspects not maturing until the end of high school. Because adults are so much better at listening accurately in noise and over a distance, the impact of the acoustic environment in K-12 classrooms is almost always underestimated by teachers, administrators, and parents.

But there's more. Unlike adults, young students are developing language skills and lack the vocabulary needed to expertly fill in the blanks when they miss a new word or word ending. Children are surprisingly poor at using context to reconstruct what their ears have missed — a task that adults perform easily and unconsciously.

Most classrooms aren’t the ideal place for learning.

Now place this child — with his or her underdeveloped listening capacity, vocabulary, and world experience — in a typical K-12 classroom. Many adults assume that's the ideal place for learning. In auditory terms, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Research over the last decade has shown that kids farthest from the teacher can miss up to 40% of what’s being said. When it's that hard to keep up, it's no wonder they stop paying attention, cause disruption, and perform more poorly.

Consider seating arrangements. It's no coincidence that the students who are most inattentive and prone to behavior problems are often found in the back row or seated far away from the teacher. To understand 100% of speech sounds, children need to hear the teacher’s voice spoken 15 decibels louder than the background noise. But in a typical K-12 classroom, the teacher’s voice is barely 5 decibels louder than surrounding noise — so only those children closest to the teacher can get the most information with the least amount of effort.

At least 45% of the class day requires listening. In other words, teachers use kids’ ears as a pathway to their brains, especially in the lower grades where children are gaining basic skills. Even with good behavioral control of classrooms to minimize student-generated noise, a teacher can do little or nothing to reduce seating distance and background noise.

The limitations of childrens' brains and coping skills, plus the obstacles of noise and distance from the teacher, combine to erode speech perception, attention, behavior, and overall classroom performance.

Teacher microphones: An essential tool for success

Graph showing how FrontRow microphones improve understanding

Understanding words in sentences (median % correct):
Without FrontRow microphones, children are much worse than adults at understanding even simple sentences.

By ensuring the teacher’s voice sounds clear no matter where students sit, FrontRow microphones can overcome the hurdles of unamplified classrooms. Our audio technology makes a significant impact on the attentiveness and achievement of hundreds of thousands of students every day.

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