It is important for employers and employees to take seriously the risk of acoustic shock. An extract from the national definitions of acoustic shock in telephone and headset users published by the Acoustic Safety Programme on the 1st May 2006 concluded the following based on evidence –
- An acoustic incident is a sudden, unexpected noise event which is perceived as loud, transmitted through a telephone or headset.
- Acoustic shock is an adverse response to an acoustic incident resulting in alteration of auditory function.
Acoustic shock is characterised by auditory symptoms occurring immediately after the acoustic incident. In some individuals further symptoms develop over time. Commonly reported symptoms include –
- Early on set, discomfort or pain around the ear, muffled hearing, feeling light headed, fatigue, lethargy, nausea and dizziness.
- Medium on set (from hours to days after the event) tinnitus, hyperacusis, dysacusis.
- Late on set of anxiety, phobic anxiety depression.
Both medium and late on set symptoms may continue in the long term. Symptoms vary greatly between individuals. In the United Kingdom there have been nearly 1000 cases of acoustic shock taken against call centre companies. Employees have been injured as a result of inadequate equipment and a lack of proper occupational health and safety measures. The number of cases represent in excess of €10,000,000 paid out in compensation. Employers in Ireland may face similar claims under health and safety legislation which places a duty of care upon all employers to prevent employees from suffering hearing injuries in both a physical and psychological form.
The new EEC 2003/10/EC directive implemented new regulations which set a single peek level of 135db(c) and a daily exposure of 80db(a) over an 8 hour working day period which, if exceeded, requires action to be taken.
The existence for some evidence for acoustic shock is a known risk and injury, the availability of effective solutions and legislation that requires implementation of appropriate health and safety measures should provide employers with all necessary incentives to protect employees against this risk.
If you have suffered hearing loss or any of these issues concern you please feel free to contact our Mr. Liam Moloney, Solicitor, Naas, Co. Kildare on 045 898000 or simply log onto our website at www.moloneysolicitors.ie