March 28, 2010

School Cafeteria Noise

*This blog post was featured as a guest post on Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project 
Within the school district I attend, I travel to four or more schools a day visiting students of various grades (preschool -12th grade).  I have recently started reading Mrs. Q’s blog, Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project, with intense fascination which inspired this blog post.

As you can see from my job description, I am a broadly experienced user of school cafeterias. What I absolutely despise about the school cafeteria is the noise: The cacophony of screamingly loud chatter, the clank of lunch trays, and the screech of chairs. As a person with a hearing loss, the noise makes it impossible for me to have a conversation. The noise is so great, that I have to take out my hearing aid.
If you do a search about noise in the cafeteria, you will find hundreds of entries and articles about this subject. I found out that the noise level in several American school cafeterias measured at 70-85 dB (decibel)! A decibel is a unit used to measure the intensity or loudness of a sound. To give you an idea, a normal conversation measures at 60 dB. A lawnmower measures at 85-90 dB.
For anyone, the lawnmower-level noise makes conversation impossible.  As a teacher, I am concerned that it is damaging the students’ social skills as well as their hearing.
For those of normal hearing, keep in mind that a constant exposure to that level of noise can do permanent damage. Fortunately, 30 to 45 minutes a lunch is most likely not long enough to be damaging.  Nonetheless, the noise is for all annoying, and having to shout is not conducive to manners or digestion.




  1. Interesting...when people write about the cafeteria at Gallaudet, of all places, the first thing they remark on is how quiet the whole area is. Go figure.

  2. In the UK workplace at 85dB exposure daily or weekly means ear protection must be worn. To quote the UK Health and Safety Executive;

    The Noise Regulations require you to take specific action at certain action values. These relate to:

    * the levels of exposure to noise of your employees averaged over a working day or week; and
    * the maximum noise (peak sound pressure) to which employees are exposed in a working day.

    The values are:

    * lower exposure action values:
    o daily or weekly exposure of 80 dB;
    o peak sound pressure of 135 dB;
    * upper exposure action values:
    o daily or weekly exposure of 85 dB;
    o peak sound pressure of 137 dB.
    Between the lower and upper level employers must provide ear protection if requested, over that it's compulsory.
    85dB in the canteen eh?

    1. I wish school would try to do something about employees who have
      continually asked students to "quiet down" over and over again.
      They do for a short while and try to out-shout one-another and
      it's frustrating. I'm thinking of quitting job if something doesn't improve and students learn to talk in a conversational
      level. School will be informed of above.

  3. Students have complained about the noise levels in the cafeteria at my college. I want to find this study about noise. The study (and some slanted wording) would probably help to minimize the noise at my school.

    I don't eat on campus often, so the issue doesn't directly affect me (unless you look at the possibility of having a lot of late-deafened students running around).

  4. I think the only solution to this other than sound-proofing the cafeteria, would be to limit the number of students and teachers who eat in the cafeteria at certain times. But, I know this is probably impossible due to the fact that most schools are overcrowded and on a tight schedule.


  5. I think noise in the school and the college cafeteria is not going to low down as its the only place where students feel free and they just can't stop themselves to have fun and talks. I think sound proof cafeteria is good idea to avoid disturbance from this noise.


Keep it civil.