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Noise Health. 2018 Sep-Oct;20(96):178-189. doi: 10.4103/nah.NAH_11_18.

Noise exposure and hearing status among call center operators.

Author information

1
Department of Physical Hazards, Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine, Lodz, Poland.

Abstract

Introduction:

The overall objective of the study was to assess noise exposure and audiometric hearing threshold levels (HTLs) in call center operators.

Materials and Methods:

Standard pure-tone audiometry and extended high-frequency audiometry were performed in 78 participants, aged 19 to 44 years (mean ± standard deviation: 28.1 ± 6.3 years), employed up to 12 years (2.7 ± 2.9 years) at one call center. All participants were also inquired about their communication headset usage habits, hearing-related symptoms, and risk factors for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Noise exposure under headsets was evaluated using the microphone in a real ear technique as specified by ISO 11904-1:2002. The background noise prevailing in offices was also measured according to ISO 9612:2009.

Results and Discussion:

A personal daily noise exposure level calculated by combining headset and nonheadset work activities ranged from 68 to 79 dBA (74.7 ± 2.5 dBA). Majority (92.3%) of study participants had normal hearing in both ears (mean HTL in the frequency range of 0.25-8 kHz ≤20 dB HL). However, their HTLs in the frequency range of 0.25 to 8 kHz were worse than the expected median values for equivalent highly screened otologically normal population, whereas above 8 kHz were comparable (9-11.2 kHz) or better (12.5 kHz). High-frequency hearing loss (mean HTLs at 3, 4, and 6 kHz >20 dB HL) and speech-frequency hearing loss (mean HTLs at 0.5, 1, 2, and 4 kHz >20 dB HL) were noted in 8.3% and 6.4% of ears, respectively. High-frequency notches were found in 15.4% of analyzed audiograms. Moreover, some of call center operators reported hearing-related symptoms.

Conclusions:

Further studies are needed before firm conclusions concerning the risk of NIHL in this professional group can be drawn.

KEYWORDS:

call center; communication headset; hearing loss; noise exposure

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