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Can Sound Masking Help Tinnitus Sufferers in the Workplace?

Can Sound Masking Help Tinnitus Sufferers in the Workplace?


This week, 3rd – 9th February, is Tinnitus Awareness Week 2020 and the theme for the week is tinnitus research.

Remark Group had a gentleman who worked for us for around five years who suffered with tinnitus, for the purpose of this article we will call him John. John worked with Remark before we had sound masking installed and after the installation of the technology. John found that after the installation of sound masking, the symptoms of his tinnitus were considerably educed within the workplace, enabling him to concentrate better and hear telephone conversations and conversations with colleagues clearer.

Here at Remark Group we are advocates for workplace wellbeing and ways that technology can aid employees in the workplace so we decided to look into tinnitus a little bit more and see how sound masking could aid those who suffer with it in the workplace.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. A common problem, tinnitus affects about 15 to 20 percent of people. Tinnitus isn't a condition itself — it's a symptom of an underlying condition, such as age-related hearing loss, ear injury or a circulatory system disorder.

Although bothersome, tinnitus usually isn't a sign of something serious. Although it can worsen with age, for many people, tinnitus can improve with treatment. Treating an identified underlying cause sometimes helps. Other treatments reduce or mask the noise, making tinnitus less noticeable.

An estimated six million people in the UK are affected by some form of tinnitus but for a small perfect of them the condition is so bad it affects their daily lives and reduces their quality of life. It can affect a person’s ability to concentrate, hear clearly in certain environments and difficulty sleeping.

Noise in the Workplace

Noise is unwanted sound judged to be unpleasant, loud, or disruptive to hearing. Noise perception is subjective. Factors such as characteristics, duration and time of occurrence may affect one’s subjective impression of the noise.

Noise has a direct impact on a person’s ability to complete a task in a timely and productive manner. It also has a negative impact on a person’s workplace wellbeing and stress levels. Pair this with having tinnitus and the noise at work can often be unbearable.

In 2019, Remark Group, conducted a survey on Noise and Wellbeing in the workplace, to determine whether or not noise does indeed impact a person’s workplace wellbeing and in turn their productivity and overall happiness. The survey brought back some interesting results, a lot of which can be used to look at tinnitus in the workplace and how we can help those that suffer from it.

Sixty – one percent of UK office workers say that they are interrupted by noise at least five to ten times a day. In the same survey they then went onto report that it takes an average of eleven minutes to get back into a task after being distracted by noise.

It’s not just productivity that noise is harming either; in the same survey 58% of UK office workers say that noise has a high impact on their stress levels in the workplace, and 44% state that noise had a negative impact on their overall wellbeing. Exposure to excessive noise levels stimulates our nervous system, raising blood pressure and releasing stress hormones.

Sound Masking and Tinnitus

Tinnitus can often sound louder at quieter times, such as when trying to sleep or when in a quiet office. In a survey it was found that 42% of tinnitus sufferers believed that their condition had an adverse effect on their work and loss of concentration. Lack of sleep and anxiety can all make working more difficult.

Tinnitus can have an impact on hearing conversations in the office and meetings, and problems hearing telephone conversations. Employers have a duty of care to their workers and if noise in the workplace regularly reaches 80 – 85db they should take steps to protect their staff. On the other end of the spectrum, a very quiet workplace can also have a huge impact on tinnitus sufferers, making the tinnitus worse.

Sound masking has many benefits in the workplace, particularly for those who experience tinnitus. Sound masking helps by injecting low levels of noise into the environment to mask the presence of tinnitus. Sound masking produces sounds that are only found in the frequency of the human voice; it creates a low hum that is evenly distributed around the environment to create a completely immersive environment.

The perceived loudness of tinnitus is how much louder the tinnitus is above the ambient noise of the environment. By raising the ambient noise level, the apparent loudness of tinnitus can be reduced. The installation of sound masking raises the ambient noise level in the treated area making the environment appear quieter.

Depending on the level of the sound masking, tinnitus may be fully or partially masked. While sound masking is an effective solution for the majority of those with tinnitus, it does not work for everyone.

Sound masking cannot reduce or eliminate tinnitus, only reduce the awareness of it. We are also not experts on tinnitus only sound masking, if you are suffering with tinnitus you can head over to the NHS website for more information.

If you’re interested in sound masking and the benefits it can have on your workplace you can get in touch or head over to our sound masking information page to find out more.

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