Sennheiser Communications

Press release


10.03.2005 - Copenhagen


A few years ago the United Kingdom witnessed the first legal action brought by contact center employees, who had suffered permanent hearing damage as a result of extreme acoustic signals. In Australia, the National Acoustic Laboratories have been investigating the possible harmful effects of "acoustic shock" on health for years. Although the need for action is documented by EU provisions, the issue is still largely neglected in many countries. A number of large employee oriented companies are however looking into the topic of extreme acoustic stress, as for some time now, advanced technology has been available for preventing the associated health risks.

Awareness of the extreme acoustic stress that professional frequent phoners in contact centers and offices are exposed to continues to be low. But the number of employees who spend much of their time on the phone, most of them wearing headsets, is continually rising. This is not only due to the growing number of service and contact centers. Headsets are becoming increasingly common in small offices as well.

People who wear headsets are totally at the mercy of extreme sounds like feedback, signals and alarms because they cannot remove the receiver from their ear quickly enough. This can result in what is known as "acoustic shock". It can have a variety of health consequences, which may manifest themselves in nausea, headache, muscular tension, increased sensitivity to noise, or even tinnitus. For this reason, the state-run National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL) in Australia have spent considerable time taking a close look at the issue of acoustic shock. NAL researchers suspect that the greater people?s fear of extreme acoustic events, the worse they are able to cope with them. Employees should therefore be given a sense of security, by protecting them from extreme sound signals.

When choosing a headset, one important criterion is that it should reduce the effects of extreme sounds. The scope for keeping the volume turned down generally is limited. After all, it is usually necessary to drown out any amount of background noise. The NAL recommends a number of technical protection measures. For example, some headset systems seek to protect the user by absorbing the undesirable sound pressure. The most effective solutions are offered by systems that detect extremely high sound pressure and suppress peak volumes before they can cause any damage.

The most advanced system in this field comes from Sennheiser Communications and is called ActiveGard?. The system not only provides protection against extreme acoustic stress, but also provides outstanding sound quality. All telecommunications models in the Sennheiser SH 200 and 300 series, and also the CC 500 series, are equipped with this patented protective system.

Tests confirmed by the renowned Norwegian research institute Nemko Comlab show that ActiveGard? is superior to conventional systems, which merely chop off peak volumes. This means the acoustic signal is not as loud, but the sound remains unpleasant and still has harmful potential. Suppression of peak volumes can also result in reduced sound quality. ActiveGard?, by contrast, completely eliminates the sound energy. To prevent the sound being distorted, the sound waves are actually compressed. Even a loud sound signal that could cause hearing damage is reduced so effectively that the volume always remains at a pleasantly acceptable level. ActiveGard? does not even require additional power to achieve this, as the system is powered entirely by the energy of the incoming signal. Every telephone headset by Sennheiser Communications is equipped with this protective system as standard ? there are no extra costs for accessory equipment.

Even if many countries do not yet have any official research findings on the subject of acoustic shock, protecting employees in contact centers and offices is not just a matter of health risks, but also of job satisfaction and well-being. People who spend the whole day on the phone will be more relaxed and work better, if they know they are safe from harmful noise. Yet another reason to consider not only great fit and excellent workmanship when buying headsets, but also sound quality and effective protection from undesirable sound levels.