Despite the common use of automated call services, customers still prefer to speak with a human being rather than an artificially intelligent answering machine. For these (human) call center agents to better serve their customers, they need to have excellent auditory processing skills. And, when's the best time to learn all about hearing problems and speech disorders? It's the month of May, which is celebrated as Better Hearing and Speech Month each year!
This endeavor is largely focused on educating people about the various hearing problems and speech disorders that are prevalent among children and the elderly. But, it's also the perfect month for all call center agents around the world to learn how they can best preserve their hearing while on the job. Here are some workplace wellness tips on how to prevent or (at the very least) minimize the risk of noise-induced hearing loss.
#1 Use your smartphone as an acoustic measurement device.
Why buy a decibel meter when you can install an app on your smartphone? Search for "sound meter" or "noise level meter" or even "decibel meter" on Google Play or iTunes and you'll get a lot of results. These apps are as accurate as the traditional hand-held instrument used to measure noise levels. According to experts, a continuous noise level greater than 90 decibels can cause ringing in one's ears, and reaching 115 decibels more or less can permanently damage one's hearing.
#2 Use noise-canceling headphones whenever possible.
Listening to one or two co-workers talking to customers all day isn't so bad, but imagine a hundred call center agents talking all at once in the same large room. The noise level can be deafening for some. That's why it is better for everyone to use noise-canceling headsets. These not only produce clarity of sound during calls, but they block out unnecessary background noise which can interfere with how agents process what their customers are saying.
#3 Stop listening to loud music for a while and let your ears rest.
The National Institutes of Health reports that about 15% of Americans ages 20 to 69 have high-frequency hearing loss related to occupational or leisure activities. Evidence suggests that loud rock music along with increased use of personal listening devices with earphones may be further contributing to this phenomenon.
If you heard LAUREL, then you're probably processing the sound clip at a pitch that's 30% lower than the original recording. If you heard YANNY, then the pitch must have been set at 30% higher, which means you may have younger (and healthier) ears.
#4 Clean your ears regularly (but not with cotton swabs!).
It may come as a surprise to most people, but ENT specialists do not recommend cotton swabs for ear wax removal. They say irrigation or syringing using a saline solution is much, much safer and more effective. With the benefit of an HMO, call center agents can get better ear care through visits to an ENT doctor. Ear cleaning probably doesn't take long; it's just like visiting your dentist and having your teeth cleaned.
#5 Make sure the headsets are clean!
Even though your workplace may not be as noisy as a construction site and you may not be taking calls half of the time, hearing loss is still a big risk to call center agents. Why? Because of unsanitary headsets. Sweat can gather in the foam filters and grime may accumulate on the plastic and vinyl surface of the headsets. They can become hotbeds for bacteria, and those microorganisms can get into the agents' ears and cause problems.
This is why effective housekeeping procedures must be observed. They are as important as security and risk compliance procedures in the workplace. These measures are meant to keep the work environment safe and clean for all employees.
Walk, Block and Turn
These workplace wellness tips are by no means inclusive of all possible ways to prevent hearing loss or reduce the risks of developing an auditory processing disorder. In fact, hearing experts often advise clients to "walk, block, and turn" when they're exposed to consistently high noise levels in their environment.
First, they should walk away from the source of an extremely grating sound. If that's not possible, then try to block the noise by wearing a noise-canceling headset or earplugs. But if the source of the sound is under your control, then it's best to turn down the volume. Many gadgets these days have automatic volume control, which helps regulate ambient noise and improve the quality of sound being produced.