This is a mainly British term for a novel type of industrial injury that is said to be suffered particularly by staff in call centres. Such staff spend their days with headphones clamped to their ears, answering incoming calls or cold-calling prospective customers. It is claimed that workers are often subjected to piercing noises, for example from fax machines accidentally called (or other sources not clearly identified in news reports), which are damaging their hearing. Many call centres are virtual sweatshops, with long hours, poor conditions, low pay, pressure on operators to improve productivity, and petty limitations on freedom of movement; it may be that some claims of hearing damage are as much a reflection of the stressful working conditions as of true injury. Acoustic shock is the subject of a legal case in Britain in which 83 workers are claiming compensation. The term itself is not new, having been part of the jargon of telecoms engineers for many years.
Call centres, one of the fastest growing industries in Britain, are triggering a new industrial injury — acoustic shock.
Guardian, Feb. 2001
The TUC set up a helpline to take calls from call centre workers. Common complaints included being over-supervised, having toilet breaks timed, having pay docked for arriving a few minutes late, and fear of “acoustic shock” from the telephone system.
Personal Computer World, July 2001
Search World Wide Words
Recently added or updated
Lie Doggo; Fewmet; Dingbat; Kibosh; Caucus; Oryzivorous; Kick the bucket; Satisficer; Beside oneself; Words of the Year 2015; Peradventure; Sconce; Orchidelirium; How’s your father; Goon; Emoji; Thank your mother for the rabbits; Nonplussed; Bob’s-a-dying; Methinks; Bill of goods; Binge-watching; Codswallop; That’s all she wrote; Great Scott.
Support World Wide Words!
Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.
Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!