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Abuse of call centre staff could result in hearing loss

Posted on Oct 25 2010
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But evidence is emerging of a far more sinister form of abuse than the off the cuff rebuff. Call centre staff expect a certain amount of verbal abuse from customers, but no-one thought the telephone could become the weapon of physical abuse. Some irate customers have begun to use loud noises to strike out.
Although it sounds like far-fetched fiction, the sheer volume of these noises can pose a serious risk of hearing loss and in some cases, the need for hearing aids. Hearing protection cannot be used because it impairs their communication with customers.
Johns Experience
John has worked in call centres for many years and is now a Call Centre Manage. He believes his experiences have contributed to noise-induced hearing loss.
Customers would whistle loudly down the phone, or even using a sports whistle to hurt peoples ears. Whilst it wasnt an everyday occurrence, John noticed that some departments were more likely to suffer such incidents.
If people didnt like what they were hearing they would, for example, put the phone in front of the stereo turned right up and youd get really loud, terrible feedback through your headset.
Hearing Damage
The full effect of these loud noises on peoples hearing was initially not considered. Staff didnt give much thought to the dangers. These days this form of abuse is becoming better understood.
A spokesperson for the Communications Workers Union (CWU) explained that they are well aware of this problem amongst their members and are currently representing several legal cases for compensation. There are two contributing factors involved with call centre related hearing issues which range from tinnitus to hearing loss.
The first factor is the quality of the equipment used. The second is abuse of employees by members of the public. The CWU is currently consulting closely with a number of progressive companies to help provide technological solutions such as breaks in lines and audio when operators are exposed to loud high pitched sounds.
Damage Unseen and Unheard
Because of the nature of hearing loss, often the damage will go unnoticed perhaps even for decades. Having regular hearing tests can help identify the early signs of a problem. Whilst hearing loss cannot yet be reversed, action can be taken to stop the decline if the cause of the damage is ongoing.
There are hearing care centres across the UK where people can attend for free hearing tests and now that the internet is so popular you can even take an online hearing test, such as on your home computer. We put a huge emphasis on the health of our eyes without realising the importance of hearing in our daily jobs. As with most progressive conditions, prevention is the best cure we have at the moment.
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