According to a study recently conducted by the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Department at the Sahlgrenska Academy, Sweden preschool teachers experience a higher rate of auditory fatigue than other women in other job groups, and more importantly, higher than a woman working in similar high noise occupational environments. Instances of hearing loss and tinnitus were also elevated compared to other women in different professional groups, but not as significantly as auditory fatigue.
Preschool teachers complained of the inability to listen to conversations, sustain noise after work, or even listen to the radio. This difficulty can be attributed largely to the noise they experience throughout the day, every day that they are unable to block out.
According to the study, nearly half of the study’s participants had trouble understanding speech after work. Over one-third experienced physical ear pain on a regular basis caused by normal environmental sound.
Unlike other professions in high noise environments such as factories or public establishments where the noise is easily blocked out, becoming a part of the background, preschool teachers must listen to the sound since often it contains communication from their students. Young students who haven’t matured enough to communicate more calmly often yell and sometimes scream to communicate their needs or interact during play.
Finding A Fix
Because preschool teachers cannot just ignore their students, solutions to the problem are a little more complicated. Some key steps can be taken, however, to help mitigate the issue.
Spend More Time Outdoors
By spending extended time outdoors or taking more breaks outside, children can still express themselves in natural ways while giving the preschool teachers a break from the noise.
Focus On The Room Design
Large rooms with solid walls and little barriers provide an acoustic nightmare for preschool teachers. Having more sound absorbing material and areas that are divided off yet designed in a way that the teachers have visibility to the students can help dampen the myriad of sounds emanating from the children through the course of the day.
Wearing Hearing Protections
Simple earplugs can go a long way in reducing damaging noises while still allowing the sounds a teacher needs to hear. It also serves as a teaching tool for students. By telling the student that the teacher can only listen to him/her when they are talking calmly at an appropriate distance, positive behavior is reinforced.
Periodic Quiet Time
While many preschools have a nap or quiet time, teachers may want to consider incorporating quiet times in other ways throughout the day, whether it be through child-centered yoga on the mat, mindfulness practices, or a simple look at a book break. There can be many fun opportunities for implementing small breaks of silence throughout the day.
Many preschoolers are still learning appropriate behaviors to get them ready for elementary school. These behaviors involve keeping your hands to yourself, raising your hand to speak, being courteous, taking turns, and sharing. Preschool teachers can help encourage these behaviors, especially in speaking within normal levels and during appropriate play through a positivity based incentive program.