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November 06, 2009

Purchasing Cheap Contact Center Headsets like Playing 'Russian Roulette' with Agents' Hearing

By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet


Purchasing cheap headsets for your contact center agents is like playing Russian roulette with their hearing.

You see, every now and then, a phone or headset can accidentally feedback or produce an extremely loud noise, called an “acoustic burst,” that can potentially damage an agent’s ears, resulting in permanent hearing loss.

Unfortunately, some companies have been sued in the past by call center agents whose hearing was permanently impaired as a result of acoustic shock. In numerous jurisdictions, “acoustic shock syndrome” has become a form of industrial injury for which companies can be held liable.

The European Union, for example, adopted a new directive a few years ago known as the Noise at Work Directive, which sets limits on permissible noise levels and covers both sustained noise and acoustic bursts. This is just one example of how governments are stepping in to help prevent damage to hearing caused by noise in the workplace.

As such, it is critical for contact centers to invest in high quality headsets with built-in protection for acoustic shock. Typically this involves the integration of a circuit that automatically reduces the level of incoming sounds that exceed a certain threshold in terms of decibels.

Sennheiser integrates its ActiveGard acoustic burst protection into every contact center headset it makes. Based on technologies and insight from Sennheiser’s two parent companies, Sennheiser K.G. (sound and acoustics) and William Demant Holding (advanced hearing instrument technology), ActiveGard does more than just cut off sounds that are too loud – it incorporates advanced algorithms to ensure maximum protection without compromising speech intelligibility.
 
In consultation with telecommunications specialists worldwide, Sennheiser has set the threshold for transient peaks to 105dB -- significantly lower than the limits imposed by the EU directive.
 
Companies that are considering purchasing new headsets for the contact center agents should make safety a primary consideration. They should look for hearing protection that exceeds OSHA standards, to ensure they are protected under the law. In addition they should look for headsets that offer varied wearing styles so that hearing protection is not just accessible, but comfortable.

Finally, this isn’t just a matter of liability – it’s also a matter of corporate responsibility and human decency. By providing your contact center agents with the best headsets available, you not only protect them from potential injury, you also send them a strong message that they matter, that you care about their well-being, which in turn will go a long way to build agent job satisfaction and retention.

For more information, click here, and be sure to check out this free white paper.

Patrick Barnard is a senior Web editor for TMCnet, covering call and contact center technologies. He also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet e-Newsletters in the areas of robotics, IT, M2M, OCS and customer interaction solutions. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard



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