NIOSH Gives Guidance on Reducing Noise Hazards for Call Center Operators

National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety


 Workers at call and dispatch centers may suffer hearing damage as a result of high noise level exposures through their headsets. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released recommendations to help workers deal with this problem.

According to NIOSH, call and dispatch center workers face:
• Acoustic trauma from sudden spikes in noise levels, such as feedback into a headset.
• Background noise from incoming calls, and
• Background noise from other workers and equipment, such as air-conditioners or heating systems.

NIOSH says many workers face exposure to noise levels between four and 18 decibels (dB) higher than the recommended exposure limit of 85 decibels, A-weighted, over an eight-hour average.

Many call center/dispatch workers interviewed by NIOSH reported ringing in their ears, headaches, irritability, increased tension and fatigue as a result of frequent exposure to loud sounds.

Workers who experience tinnitus (ear ringing), a dulled sense of hearing or fullness in their ears after a shift should speak to their supervisor and ask for advice.

NIOSH also recommends that workers:
• Avoid setting the volume control beyond the midpoint.
• Ask to try different headsets with improved protection or noise-canceling features.
• Clean and maintain their headsets periodically and replace them when they notice damage or decreased performance.
• Take advantage of breaks in quiet areas whenever possible.
• Ask co-workers to use lower volumes on sound-generating devices.

Read NIOSH document here: