The Erickson/Newman team studied previously published research on children’s reactions to background noise. To contextualize their conclusions, they report that a whisper in a quiet library is 30 dB loud, the daytime noise levels in open bay neonatal intensive care units are about 60 dB, sound levels in occupied infant and toddler classrooms are 60-90 dB, and that the volume in a noisy restaurant is approximately 80-90 dB. The researchers report that “Despite their relatively mature auditory systems, infants and children struggle with listening in noise relative to adults, particularly when the background noise consists of speech. . . . [speech] perception with background speech is impaired as late as age 16. . . Noise is present in infants’ and young children’s environments and exerts far-reaching effects on health, perception, and learning. Noise may particular disadvantage infants and young children on recognizing and learning from speech, especially when background noise is also speech.” The Erickson/Newman research indicates, for instance, that it is problematic for adults to feel that infants and children will experience a soundscape in the same way that they do.
Lucy Erickson and Rochelle Newman. 2017. “Influences of Background Noise on Infants and Children.” Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 26, no. 5, pp. 451-457.