Workplace noise is more annoying than ever, says Quebec survey

Workplace noise is more annoying than ever, according to a Quebec study (photo: Pexels.com)

Nearly 30 per cent of workers and students feel bothered by noise at work or school, compared with only 11 per cent of those who work remotely, according to a new survey shared with The Canadian Press on National Hearing Day, May 3.

Almost 70 per cent of Quebecers say they are more bothered than ever by loud environmental sounds, added the study commissioned by Audition Québec from BIP Research.

"The results of the survey did not surprise me at all because audiologists have been warning us about the effects of noise for years," said Paul-André Gallant, president of the Quebec Order of Speech Therapists and Audiologists.

One-third of participants in the survey said they were bothered both during the day and at night.

The almost constant presence of noise in our environment causes fatigue, irritability and loss of concentration in 62 per cent of Quebecers, and nervousness and aggressiveness in 36 per cent of them.

Many Quebecers experience frequent difficulty following conversations in different environments, whether in public spaces (32 per cent) or at work or school (19 per cent). In addition, 55 per cent of Quebecers report having tinnitus (incessant noise in the ears) at least occasionally.

"Yes, these are high numbers, but I think they are fair numbers," said Gallant. "It's that beyond the hearing loss, there's the loss of the message that the noise creates, which can lead to difficulties in comprehension, attention, frustration, etc."

"It's not just the extreme situations we have to worry about," Gallant said, "such as living near an airport or going to an AC/DC concert, but also and perhaps most importantly the "constant environmental noise we live in and unfortunately get used to," which we don't realize until we are finally in silence.

Beyond hearing loss problems that can happen in the long term, constant noise exposure can result in concentration difficulties, insomnia, and tinnitus.

"We're not going to think that noise can do that, and we're going to attribute it to other things and treat it," said Gallant. Unfortunately, it's something that has to be addressed at the source.

Even survey participants who reported being less bothered by noise while working remotely than in the office may be idealizing what they experience at home, he added.

"In telecommuting, you're often in continuous meetings and you're going to wear headphones, and often headphones that aren't up to par, so you're going to turn up the sound," Gallant said. "During that time, we'll do a small load of laundry, then we'll turn up the sound on our headphones to make sure we can hear our meeting, and the volume will be on continuously all day. We've found that there are a lot of workers at home who have had noise-related problems."

If it is possible to take individual action to protect oneself from noise, "society must realize that this is a real public health problem," said Gallant.

These results come from an online survey of 1,000 Quebecers conducted by BIP Research from March 30 to April 12, 2021. The margin of error associated with a sample of this size is 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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