Kirsty Johnston describes Taranaki teenager Jamie
Fenton as a young Einstein after the National Foundation for the
Deaf decides to commercially produce her classroom noise level meter.
Photo: Chris Hillock
innovation to help protect the hearing of thousands of other children...
great it would be to have an idea and turn it into reality. At the
time, 10 year old Jamie Fenton thought she had achieved the best she
could from winning a prize at the local Science Fair.
that years later, your idea is recognised and put into production to
help 1000's of children around the country.
For Jamie it's
a dream come true.
Peter Thorne, Chair of the National Foundation for the Deaf Council,
had described Jamie as inspiring a major initiative to use noise level
meters in early childcare centres.
can be such noisy places especially at primary school so my first
version was more of a behaviour control device. I did not think of
noise as damaging back then. It was more of a distraction and I wanted
to make something to aid the teachers to control the noise,”
Jamie's invention quickly
made headlines around the world...and in newspapers in New Zealand...
Jamie's traffic light indicator as
supplied to the NFD and as seen on TVNZ
Jamie's indicator is developed by the NFD and sold as the Sound Safe Indicator to early childcare centres
The commercial version of Jamie's noise
meter is kown as a Safe Sound Indicator (SSI). The device lights up to
let children and staff know when noise levels are at a dangerous high.
The amber light comes on at 85 decibels, the level where hearing loss
becomes a threat.
A National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD)
survey of 65 kindergartens, playcentres and Kohanga reo revealed that 20% of children had been affected by a high level of
noise, demonstrating behaviours from putting their hands over their
ears to being so distressed they cried. Over one third of teachers
reported buzzing/ringing in the ears from time to time and hearing loss
which they believed could be a result of years working in a noisy
Jamie Fenton designed the traffic light
noise meter with a green, yellow and red lighting system that alerts
teachers and children to their noise levels so they can take action. (see this link for the original
|A typical log file from Jamie's noise level
meter showing the noise levels reached during a typical lesson in a
High School classroom
Glendowie Kindergarten head teacher Carolyn
Wanden said her kids had tested out the traffic light indicators fora
number of the weeks.
"The traffic lights are a really good
concept because children can identify with it. Green is okay, red is
It is hoped safe sound monitors will be
installed in every childcare centre in New Zealand, helping to keep noise to a safe minimum.
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