The only loud noises in nature are those that signify danger. It’s not surprising then that noisy environments are usually stressful environments. This makes perfect sense when you consider that loud noise signals danger and our bodies react by sending out a surge of adrenalin as part of the “fight or flight” response. Heart rate and respirations increase significantly, and blood pressure can increase as well. This is a good thing if we are actually in danger, but what about when the startle response is caused by a false alarm? Even worse, what if that startle response is triggered by a sudden loud noise multiple times each day? Various studies have shown a correlation between repeated, and unnecessary, startle responses and long term health issues.
In our small high school, two 110 decibel Klaxon bells ring for several seconds 22 times each day. Students and teachers alike flinch every time they sound. The noise level is equivalent to a car horn at 1 meter, so you can imagine how painful that is if you are unfortunate enough to be standing very near one of the bells. Combine this with studies showing that stress has a negative impact on learning, and it makes you wonder why we think it’s a good idea to subject our students, from a very young age, to repeated doses of dangerously loud and stress producing noise. Wonder what would happen if we tried chimes instead.