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Call centre workers face acoustic shock risk

23rd Nov 2006
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Two thirds of UK call centres fail to protect their workers against hearing damage from noise, a report warns.

A study has found that call centre employees are at risk of injuries and illnesses caused by acoustic shock and other noise related problems.

Over 700 people have so far suffered acoustic shock, with the compensation paid out so far totalling £2.5m.

Around 300 further cases are pending, according to the Acoustic Safety Programme, an independent body which aims to protect the hearing of call centre workers.

Acoustic shocks are defined as "any temporary or permanent disturbance of the functioning of the ear, or of the nervous system, which may be caused to the user of a telephone earphone by a sudden sharp rise in the acoustic pressure produced by it".

Chris Atwell, operations director for the Acoustic Safety Programme, said: "It can be a debilitating occurrence for a call centre worker. They can develop permanent damage to their hearing."

Call centres can introduce equipment like headphones for their employees which extract any potential causes of acoustic shock to protect the worker's hearing.

Dr Mark Downs, executive director of technology and enterprise for the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, said: "Acoustic shock is not the same as noise-induced hearing loss and is believed to occur at sound pressure levels below those which present an immediate risk to hearing damage. It is still a relatively un-researched condition"

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