Robert Ljung (Luleå University of Technology in Sweden/University of Gävle) just concluded his doctoral thesis on room acoustics and cognitive load. The basic hypothesis for the whole project was that listening to speech in a bad acoustic environment should increase the cognitive load for the listener, which should impair memory of the text.
Memory functions decrease if you listen to spoken information in a poor sound environment. It is not only enough to hear what is being said, one must also hear without strain. This requires a good sound and acoustic environment – especially in premises for communication and learning!
Taken together, the overall results could be summarized in two sentences: Hearing what is said is a necessary but not a sufficient criterion for people to remember what is said, which means that spoken information should be heard without special effort, otherwise proper learning is jeopardized. No consistent relation was found between working memory capacity and the learning effect in the unfavourable listening conditions.
Skolporten (abstract in English and Swedish)
Press release (in Swedish)
Interview (in Swedish)
Read the whole thesis (in English)