What’s that again? Noise and clear speech.


We are surrounded by noise—cars, machines, media, people—and it seems that quiet is more and more elusive. Surely all this noise must make it more difficult for a child to learn, interfering not only with hearing, but also disrupting focus with an abundance of distractions.

A recent article, Noise Hampers Children’s Expressive Word Learning, by Kristine Grohne Riley and Karla K. McGregor, addresses this challenge. “Specifically,” the authors say, “we asked whether noise disrupts word learning and whether the use of a clear speech style ameliorates that disruption.”

According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), “By the time they are 5 years old, many children spend most of their waking day in classroom environments that exceed recommended noise levels.” While various studies have examined the effect of excessive noise on “perception, attention, reading, spelling, behavior, and overall academic achievement,” the authors say that “The effect of noise on word learning per se is unknown.”

But, the article points out, “perceptibility is not only a matter of noise, but also of the signal”—in other words, the quality of the spoken word. To be understood, we may turn directly to the listener, enunciate more clearly, speak louder or more slowly, depending upon the circumstances and the individuals involved.

In the study, 31 children (ages 9 to just under 11) attempted to learn two sets of eight new words. The researchers manipulated signal-to-noise ratio (the ratio of the intensity of the signal—in this case, speech—to the intensity of the noise), and speech style (plain speech vs. clear speech—weak speech sounds are spoken with more intensity in clear speech than they are in plain speech).

The results? “Children who were trained in quiet learned to produce the word forms more accurately than those who were trained in noise. Clear speech resulted in more accurate word form productions than plain speech, whether the children had learned in noise or quiet. Learning from clear speech in noise and plain speech in quiet produced comparable results.”

This is gratifying and affirming for all of us at Lexercise. We are glad to have this research supporting clear speech. Clear speech files are a critical component of Lexercise learning and online practice games. 

Lexercise’s online, research-based services help struggling readers, writers, and spellers—no matter where they live! If your child has difficulty reading, writing, or spelling, Lexercise can help. Take a look at our Online Dyslexia Testing and Treatment page or contact us at Info@Lexercise.com or 1-919-747-4557.

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Sandie Barrie Blackley, MA/CCC

MA/CCC - Cofounder and CKO

Sandie is a speech-language pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in the private practice sector. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at University of North Carolina Greensboro, and founder/owner of the Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, a private practice in Elkin, NC, and Greensboro, NC, specializing in communication disorders, including disorders of reading and written language.