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Good Acoustics & Looping

Good acoustic design provides improved communication access for almost everyone. This is not just for people who are deaf, deafblind, or hard of hearing. People who can hear benefit too. Good acoustic design has two goals:

  • Minimize background noise (think about how noisy heating, air conditioning, and water running in pipes can be). This is also called ambient noise.
  • Minimize echoes in sound. This is also called reverberation.

By minimizing ambient noise and reverberation, it is much easier for peoples' voices to be heard and understood (especially for the people who are sitting in the back of the room).

Minnesota also needs to increase the number of locations that have hearing loops properly installed.

Who this impacts

  • People who have t-coils, or telecoils, built-in their hearing aid or cochlear implant will benefit from properly installed loops.
  • If a room has good acoustics, everyone benefits!

Solution

Back in 2005, MNCDHH successfully advocated for a law that requires school boards to consult acoustic standards when creating designs for new classrooms. This law creates an improved learning environment for students.

Minnesota schools love the improved acoustic standards. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the Acoustical Society of America, the average American student can only understand 75% or less of what is being said when they are in a classroom that was not designed with improved acoustical standards. When you consider that children are still developing language, having them try to understand their teacher's voice in noisy environments has a negative impact on their learning experience.

During the 2017 legislative session, the Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans (MNCDHH) successfully lobbied for the passage of the bill that requires good acoustics and hearing loops in public meeting spaces in state-funded construction projects. This bill was signed into law as part of the capital investment bill. 

The Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing Minnesotans (MNCDHH) has two responsibilities under this law:

  1. Provide consultation for the implementation of acoustic design or looping
  2. Produce a report to the state legislature every two years that includes a list of the projects that applied for a waiver for these two building code requirements

MNCDHH and Loop Minnesota have created resources (access the documents below). MNCDHH and Loop Minnesota also provide presentations to communicate to public and private agencies the new requirements and the industry best practices so that Minnesotans will experience the best that acoustic design and looping has to offer.

Resources

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