Call Center Diseases: Acoustic Shock Syndrome & Ear Infections

Many people suffer endlessly without realizing their conditions are related to their work place. Today we will talk about Acoustic Shock Syndrome and ear infections as they relate to Call Centers, otherwise known as Toll Free Lines.

     Many times Call Centers ask employees to share headsets.  This is one of the major cause of ear infections among Call Center workers.  Some employers have a stingy attitude when it comes to issuing out new headsets to employees.  This is nonsense.  The Call Centers depend on employees to be healthy, come to work and take nasty calls from rude customers.  Not only do rude call after rude call affect the health of the employee, but the headset as well.  It has been found that ear infections are prevalent among Toll Free Line workers. 

     Furthermore, when callers are rude, this drives up the blood pressure of the employee.  Imagine what their thought pattern is like, listening to negative stuff about themselves, day after day, hour after hour, minute by minute. Many times employees are made to sit taking call after call without decent breaks in between stressful calls.  This makes employees feel tied to desk as in chained.  Worst case scenario is when the employee has to explain their whereabouts, just for going to the bathroom.  Sad to say, some have to raise their hands like school children just to go pee or do a number two.  Imagine yourself doing a number two and then explaining that to your boss.  That is zero fun and deplorable.  It Lowers the morale.

     Many centers set it up so that the employee has no input as to the number of calls or wrap time between calls.  The calls just come continuously.  Not only that, but there is also a loud noise or beep that is very annoying with each call, as the call comes in through the headset.

     This buzzing sound (for lack of a better word) coupled with noise equipment leads to Acoustic Shock.  It can be bad equipment as well as prankish callers that deliberately send noise to annoy Customer Service employees.  Sometimes employees are put on speaker phones and this produces an echo that is intolerable.  When an ear infection is involved, the echo becomes intolerable as well as noise streaks, equipment noise coming from an internal source as well as an external source.  These can send shocks through the employees bones, nerves and brain.  Needless to say it causes migraine headaches.

     The bosses are not on the telephone, so they remain oblivious as to these problems.  But even the ones who know about it, are glad they no longer have to perform this type of work.  The attitude is more about the bottom line, crunching numbers, but never about the employee’s health. 

Because equipment such as these were almost non-existent in the 19th Century, few people are even aware of Acoustic Shock Syndrome, or the relationship between ear infections and Call Centers.  When an employee files a Workmen’s Compensation Claim, rarely is it taken serious.  Many doctors are not aware of the problem.  Finally, some employees are afraid to lose their job, so they put up with the inconveniences until their bodies give out.  The organization’s attitude is “another one bites the dust.”  And the wheels keep turning, as employees are replaced, much like machine parts.

     The sad part is that some employees lose their hearing altogether.  Others lose partial hearing.  Some develop tinnitus, which involves hearing buzzing sounds long after they are away from the equipment.  It is easier for employers to dismiss this as imaginary than to deal with the problem head on.  Other employees develop fluid in ear, where their ears are dripping a substance.  Sometimes the nose is runny or the eyes or both.  For those who also suffer from Acoustic Shock Syndrome, any noise is compounded and becomes impossible to put up with.  We are speaking here of everyday sounds, having this effect, after much exposure to this environment. 

 Yes, every day sounds become intolerable noise, to the point where the person does anything to avoid sounds.  When this happens while the employee is on the telephone, it is very likely that the employee will suddenly remove the headset, tossing it about.  And although this may sound ridiculous to some, if you have ever worked in a call center with bad equipment, you know exactly what I am talking about.

     As if all this wasn’t bad enough, the employee feels pain around the neck, shoulder and arm.  This usually occurs in the arm where the left ear hurts.  Sleeping becomes problematic because of this.  Thus, they are often treated for insomnia.  Special pillows have to be bought.  The employee may be late due to lack of sleep.  He or she is seen as non-productive when the opposite is true.

   To recap, Call Center employers seldom cater to their employee needs.  Some employees need permission to go to the bathroom or have to explain where they were.  Many call Center employees develop ear infections.  Most never make the connection between the two.  Some employees develop both ear infection and intolerance for noise, including acute Acoustic Shock Syndrome.  The ultimate slap in the face is when the employee is seen as trifling when the symptoms begin to wear on the employees.

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