Acoustic shock – how can we prevent it?

Posted by Alan 03/02/2021 0 Comment(s)

Acoustic shock – how can we prevent it?


We have learned what acoustic shock is and how, in worst case scenarios, it can affect your hearing; luckily, with the help of modern technology there are ways to prevent this from happening.

Thankfully, there are telephone devices and call center software which protect the user from acoustic shock by automatically calculating the call volume before sound is transmitted to the agent, lowering it where necessary.  Emergency service dispatch call centers generally use software to reduce the levels of alarm bells and other sirens (especially in fire stations), so that dispatchers can focus on the call they are taking and to reduce the impact of acoustic shock on staff, who are performing a very important job.

Most telephone headsets have in built acoustic shock protection so no extra technology is needed.  Users, who will be using their headset with a range of equipment, including mobile phones and tablets, should seek a unit with inbuilt acoustic shock protection as they will not be able to take advantage of software that serves this function as easily as those using headsets with the same equipment and interfaces.

For call center operators the decision on how to prevent acoustic shock becoming a problem for staff may come down to budget.  If the company has recently invested in new telephone headsets for their staff and these do not have adequate acoustic shock protection then the best solution will be software based, applying the decibel limitation at the point where the call comes in rather than in the headset itself.  Those who are looking to replace or upgrade their equipment should seriously consider investing in headsets with shock protection built in to the unit itself.  The advantage of this route is that the headsets themselves will provide adequate cover if the business switches software systems, or has a new one installed to serve a different function.  The option you choose will depend on budget, frequency of purchase of new headsets for new staff and also the expected direction of the business.

Yes, accounting for all these factors can lead to a headache similar in intensity to acoustic shock, so don't go it alone on the decision making journey.  Our experience in counseling businesses about their telephone headset needs, as well as our experience installing and manufacturing equipment, means we know the acoustic issues inside out, so take advantage of our knowledge to discover the best solution for your business when it comes to protecting your employees from acoustic shock.

How to reduce the risk of acoustic shock to staff

  • Perform initial and annual audits of the work environment, labour and management needs.
  • Make an assessment of noise exposures.
  • Evaluate the engineering and administrative control of noise exposures. Spread agents locations as wide apart as possible in the call centre. This will reduce the agent use of high volume levels. Also, use sound absorption materials for the partitions and walls as this will also reduce the agent use of high volume levels.
  • Undertake audiometric evaluation and monitoring of hearing.
  • Make appropriate use of personal hearing protection devices. Use equipment that is capable of reducing or eliminating the acoustic shocks. At the very least, have the right equipment in place to offer the minimum protection: that is, ensure that the kit is at least EC Noise Directive compliant. This is not sufficient, but could reduce the effect of acoustic shock.
  • Consider education and motivation. Set up training sessions Acoustic Shocks safety needs – something that can be done by bringing the appropriate and independent expertise from the a Health and Safety Executive or an Acoustic Safety Program. Remember: educational methods and materials should be tailored to the specific audience. The goal of education and training is not just to inform, but also to motivate. Dynamic, relevant training will imbue workers with a sense of personal control over their hearing health, lead to the development of intrinsic motivation to adopt positive hearing health.
  • Make sure you keep records. This will help you regularly maintain the equipment and logging thereof. Remember to log any acoustic occurrence and incident.
  • Undertake a program evaluation to ensure effectiveness.

How to spot and deal with the symptoms of acoustic shock

  • Immediately after a suspected acoustic shock event, look for discomfort or pain around ears, muffled hearing, fatigue, nausea and/or dizziness.
  • In the hours or days after the event, look for signs of tinnitus, high sensitivity to sounds, and/or an agent’s loss of sense around sound direction.
  • Remember that longer-term effects can include anxiety. This might manifest itself as a phobia or depression.
  • Watch for regular agent absences due to illness.
  • Keep a record of maintenance around the headsets and consoles.
  • Then you are sure an agent is suffering from acoustic shock, recommend they go to their doctor and preferably to an audiologist.
  • To prevent this happening, have a physician visit the site at least one or two times a year.

What to do if you are presented with an acoustic shock claim

  • Keep a record of all the incidence/accidents.
  • Keep account of the acoustic shock protector equipment is used in your business.
  • Keep evidence of maintenance of headsets and consoles.
  • Keep notes on all your headset and acoustic shock related training sessions and what materials were used in those sessions.
  • Keep record of the hearing health status of your staff and business by regularly inspecting it. This is a good thing to do especially when an agent is employed for the first time.

With the Recent safety measures taking in the last 5 years, most Call Center environment have addressed these issues, and buy equipment to help prevent and protect staff.  Issues tend to arise when shortcuts are taken or sub standard equipment it used.

Please feel free to call us on this, we have experts ready and willing to help advise you on the best way forward

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