Acoustic shock

Acoustic shock

The term acoustic shock is used to describe the symptoms a person may experience after hearing an unexpected, loud sound via a telephone. The loud sound, called an Acoustic Incident, can be caused by feedback oscillation, fax tones, signalling tones, or even whistle blowing by angry customers. [ Dineen and Westcott Audiologists specialise in hearing, tinnitus, hyperacusis, acoustic shock injury and CAPD ] ]

Telemarketers and call centre employees thought to be the type of workers most at risk. ITU-T Recommendation p.10 (12/98): Vocabulary of terms on telephone transmission quality and telephone sets, Geneva, 1998.]


During the exposure, most people will experience discomfort and pain. A few minutes after the exposure, some people might experience shock, nausea and anxiety. [ Acoustic Shock ] ] Headache, fatigue, hypersensitivity to loud noise and tinnitus may continue for days, weeks or indefinitely. [ Appendix 7 – Acoustic shock ] ]


There are many methods of attempting to reduce the risk of AS. Several devices attempt to remove potentially harmful sound signals by digital signal processing. None has yet been shown to be fully effective. Devices which solely limit noise levels to about 85dB have been shown in field trials to be ineffective (data from these trials has not been released into the public domain). Limiting background noise and office stress may also reduce the chance of an Acoustic Shock. Proper use of the headset and preventing mobile phones from being used in call centers reduces the chance of feedback.

Legal Action

84 BT employees suffering from depression, headaches and other health problems, are demanding compensation for injury sustained from acoustic shock at work. BT has already paid 90,000 British Pounds to one worker that suffered from tinnitus. [ BBC News | UK | Legal action over 'acoustic shock' ] ]


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