TMCnews Featured Article
Contact Center Headsets Must Protect Against 'Acoustic Burst'
By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet
Most of the time when companies think about protecting the health of their contact center agents, they tend to think first in terms of ergonomic furniture and providing ample breaks so that the agents don’t become fatigued.
But there’s another danger they often tend to overlook – it’s the danger of “acoustic shock” or “acoustic burst,” which is when the contact center agent’s headset suddenly feeds back or produces an extremely loud noise, as a result of some problem or “glitch” on the telephone network. Sometimes these spikes in volume can exceed 120 decibels, and thus can potentially damage an agent’s ears, resulting in permanent hearing loss.
Perhaps more importantly, the US may soon be imposing new regulations that make companies liable for the impact of acoustic shock on their contact center agents. The European Union 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.
Contact center headsets manufactuer 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.
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Patrick Barnard is Group Managing Editor, TMCnet, focusing mainly on call and contact center technologies. He also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet e-Newsletters in the areas of robotics, IT and customer interaction solutions. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard