Acoustic shock is not the same as hearing damage caused by long-term noise exposure.
It is caused by a sudden, unexpected loud, high frequency, high intensity sound via a headset. These sounds include alarms or sirens, fax machine dial tones, faulty telephone lines, system feedback, or malicious calls.
Injuries experienced can be both short and long term and include hearing loss, tinnitus, and pain to the ear, head and neck. Victims frequently also experience fear of sound as well as hypersensitivity to sound.
Why is protecting against Acoustic shock so important?
The rapid increase in the number of headset users, particularly employed in an office or contact centre setting, means that a significant number of the working population is now exposed to the risk of acoustic shock injury.
Headset wearers in contact centres and command and control centres, e.g. the emergency services are particularly vulnerable to acoustic shock injury.
A study conducted recently in the UK estimated that nearly one in four contact centre agents believe they have experienced acoustic shock. There is also growing evidence that contact centre staff are showing the early signs of noise induced hearing loss.
When a staff member suffers acoustic shock injury, not only does it directly affect that person’s physical and emotional health, but there are other flow-on effects. Employees may need to take time off work which affects company productivity. The affected employee’s performance and their ability to do their job properly may be affected for fear of another acoustic shock incident. In the worst case scenario, legal action may be taken against the company. These incidents also cause a ‘ripple effect’ through surrounding co-workers who start to feel vulnerable, resulting in a demotivated workforce with low staff morale.
What are an Employer’s responsibilities?
Employers are legally obligated to ensure that legal noise limits are not exceeded. They have a duty to protect the hearing of their workforce by assessing and where necessary, reducing the risks of noise. Similarly they must provide hearing protection, information, training and health surveillance to safeguard staff.
If you are concerned about whether you or your staff are safe from the risks of hearing damage or acoustic shock syndrome, contact us to arrange a free audit.