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Office noise can create a negative workplace environment for those of us who need a modicum of quiet in order to focus on the job at hand. Working in a typical office involves working behind a desk in a space divided by partitions or, in the open workspace concept, you’re sitting in a roomful of people with no walls.
The office noise that accompanies such an environment can be extremely distracting. Phones ring, doors slam, and all around there are people discussing the weather and their latest sports fantasy team.
The continual din is not only annoying, it makes employees very unhappy with their jobs. According to an article published by the BBC in 2017, Professors at the University of Sydney found that almost 50% of people working in offices with open floor plans and almost 60% of folks working in cubicles were highly dissatisfied with their jobs. This is compared to 16% of people conducting their work in private offices with walls and a door.
Not only is the office noise around the world causing employee dissatisfaction, it is also causing a huge drop in productivity. Julian Treasure, Chairman of the Sound Agency said in an interview on NPR TED Radio that there can be up to a 66% drop in productivity in noisy workplaces.
Treasure also states in the same interview that “There's a lot of research now showing that noise, and the lack of quiet working space, is one of the biggest issues for all office workers.”
Thankfully there are some solutions. Both headphones and earbuds are considered reasonable resolutions, but what should you consider when purchasing these devices?
There are hundreds if not thousands of headphone types and brands available today. Choosing which style, you want to use depends on your personal needs. An important tip is to read the specifications of the headphones and see if they fit what you need.
Are you worried about ease of movement at your desk? Then you may want to consider a Bluetooth enabled set. Do you wish to avoid the loss of your headphones due to the cord shorting out from use? Then you may wish to consider either a Bluetooth set, as mentioned above, or a pair that has the capacity to have its cord replaced.
Wearing headphones offers you the opportunity to disappear into your own personal bubble of sound. You can get lost in a sea of music or audio books of your choice and become unaware of the hubbub and, more importantly, office noise taking place around you.
Some office employees find using headphones to be calming. They enjoy the illusion of privacy, and will sometimes opt to listen to white noise or nature sounds. Researchers wrote in The Journal of Consumer Research in 2012, that “ambient noise enhances performance on creative tasks.”
The weight and pressure of headphones on your head can cause headaches. They are called compression headaches and can range from annoying to painful migraines. The easiest solution, according to the Mayo Clinic, is to either avoid wearing headphones altogether or to remove them periodically.
Then there is the danger of hearing loss. A report published by the World Health Organization in 2015 warns that listening to headphones with your favorite tunes or book turned up too loud for too long will cause permanent hearing damage. They urge everyone to listen to their devices with the sound turned down, and to limit their exposure.
The cost can be a consideration. The most effective type of headphones is those that offer sound cancellation. However, these appliances can be expensive ranging from $30-$40 depending on the model. Sound-cancelling headphones do offer better protection from hearing loss. Because of the concentration of the sound allowing the person to be able to listen at a lower volume. However, the World Health Organization states that noise canceling can be harmful if the sound is loud due to the concentration of the noise.
There is has been a lot of consumer confusion of the term earbuds. Many think all devices worn in the ear are earbuds, but they would be wrong. In fact, there are two types of ear devices, in-ear headphones worn inside the ear canal, and earbud headphones which are worn resting on the ridge or outer ear canal.
In-ear headphones are worn inside the ear canal and seal the listener off from all noises in the environment. Most in-ear devices are offered in two types, those that fit shallow and those that fit deep inside the ear canal. While the deeper fitting devices offer excellent noise reduction and isolation from the wearer’s environment, shallow fitting devices are designed to be more comfortable.
By far the most commonly used devices are earbud headphones, what consumers commonly call earbuds. These inexpensive and easy to find appliances are portable and easy to use. They isolate the wearer from the environment, but there can be a lot of sound bleed-over into the room compromising the privacy of the listener. The cost is low, perfect for those on a tight budget.
The most obvious advantage to wearing a set of either type of “earbud” devices is to drown out the sound of the other office workers or other things you don’t want to hear while typing up a very important report. Both devices are excellent at isolating you from office noise. Because the noise is effectively blocked, it is possible to listen to your chosen venue at both lower and safer volumes. This protects your hearing.
Another pro is that neither appliance uses batteries as do many types of headphones.
The greatest problem that people who wear either in-ear or earbud headphones report is discomfort. Worn in or near the ear canal they can cause mild irritation. Also, some people who have worn in-ear headphones report discomfort when inserting the device.
So What Will You Choose?
As you can see, using either headphones or earbuds can make you happier with your job by not only drowning out the sound of your neighbor belching loudly after lunch but increasing your ability to concentrate on your work.
This article has touched on many of the considerations when purchasing your device. Remember, when finding the perfect option for you decide what you need, and do your research. You will find you are happier and that the quality of work you produce will be much improved.
About the Author
Josh Roberts owns the website DoctEar which stresses care for your ears and your hearing. Visit the website to learn more about hearing protection, hearing enhancement, the best products for your ears and how to take care of your ears in general. His site includes references from industry professionals, such as OHSA and medical doctors.