Acoustic environments that support equally accessible oral higher education as a human right

Kirsten M.L. Van Den Heuij*, Karin Neijenhuis, Martine Coene

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: People have the right to freedom of opinion and expression, as defined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Higher education plays a major role in helping students to develop and express their own opinions and, therefore, should be equally accessible to all. This article focuses on how students judge the accessibility to oral instruction in higher education listening contexts. Method: We collected data from 191 students in higher education by means of a questionnaire, addressing understanding speech in different types of classrooms and various educational settings. Result: In lecture halls, understanding speech was judged to be significantly worse than in smaller classrooms. Two important negative factors were identified: background noise in classrooms and lecture halls and the non-use of a microphone. Conclusions: In lecture halls students achieve good or excellent speech perception only when lecturers are using a microphone. Nevertheless, this is not a standard practice. To achieve genuine inclusion in tertiary education programs, it is essential to remove acoustic barriers to understanding speech as much as possible. This study is a first step to identify communication facilitators to oral higher education instruction, for students with hearing loss or communication impairment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-114
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
Issue number1
Early online date22 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • acoustic environment
  • acoustics
  • Article 19
  • hearing disabilities
  • higher education
  • participation
  • speech perception
  • tertiary education
  • United Nations
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights


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