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Hearing loss at call centres

Kindai University, japan


Noise-induced hearing loss is the second most common occupational disease. For years it was believed that being a call-centre operator was a low-risk occupation. But personal-injury claims from call-centre workers are on the rise.

In 2012 – 13, Professor Setsuo Maeda of Kindai University*, Japan carried out research at a call centre on the island of Okinawa. Dr Maeda compared the noise-exposure risks and speech intelligibility of traditional headsets with those of the latest bone-conducting devices, using technology from Brüel & Kjær.

knowledge, resource center, case studies, kinki university

No scientific, controlled acoustic experiments had been conducted with actual call-centre workers to compare the two leading headset technologies. There was a need to establish baseline measurements and to conduct carefully monitored changes in hearing. This required a carefully designed experiment coupled with highly sensitive measurement equipment.

Using a Head and Torso Simulator (HATS), measurements were made over a six-day period. To evaluate the relative merits and dangers of the two alternative systems, incoming call signals were divided between two headsets used in parallel by HATS and workers making real calls. A Personal Noise Dose Meter Type 4448 was also used.

“My conclusion is that hearing damage could occur at levels above 90 dB(A),” says Dr Maeda. He has also reported: “bone conducting devices help to prevent hearing loss.” This has since been confirmed by studies carried out at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom – to the benefit of call-centre workers the world over.

* Formerly Kinki University


Kindai University was founded in 1925. Now one of Japan’s largest universities, it has six campuses in western Japan and boasts research facilities across the nation—from Hokkaido in the north to Kagoshima in the south. Currently, Kindai University comprises 15 faculties with 49 departments, 11 graduate schools, 18 research facilities, two junior colleges, 18 associated primary and secondary schools, and two teaching hospitals. The university has over 30,000 students and more than 550,000 alumni.

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