According to a survey of approximately 1,000 employees in small, medium and large offices, the respondents were mainly employed in jobs requiring a high level of concentration. The noise from computers, printers and telephones may interfere with the ability to focus.
However, too much noise in the workplace affects more than the performance and well-being of the employees. Continuous high levels of noise often affect the employees' hearing, as well, resulting in hearing loss and tinnitus.
Hearing loss is the most common work related affliction in Germany, according to Professor Eberhard Pfister who spoke on the occasion of the International Noise Awareness Day 2004. More than 6,000 cases of work related hearing loss are reported annually in Germany.
A study among 2,400 tinnitus patients, conducted by the Oregon Health and Science University Tinnitus Clinic in the United States, found that the risk of suffering from tinnitus increased by 39 percent in workplaces with "tolerable" noise and by 53 percent in workplaces with noise levels making ordinary conversations impossible.
Gerhard Hillig of Forum Besser Hören recommends that workplaces be set up in the best way possible to manage noise levels and avoid unnecessary noise.
- Computers should be placed away from the employees, under a table, for instance
- Noisy appliances and machines should be confined in a separate room
- When purchasing new equipment, machines with the lowest possible noise levels should be given preference
- Noise dampening materials, such as carpets and curtains can make a significant difference
- Offices should be free of unnecessary traffic
- Conversations and discussions, even among few people, should be held in designated conference rooms
Sources: Forum Besser Hören (January, 2004), Chronic Tinnitus Resulting From Head or Neck Injuries, The Laryngoscope (May, 2003) and Mitteldeutsche Zeitung Online (April, 2004)