How can audio technology improve working conditions?

Authors: J. Rennies, S. Goetze, J.E. Appell
Abstract: The demographic change poses a major challenge to today’s economy. The employment rates of older workers are projected to increase massively from 40% in 2004 for the EU-25 to 47% by 2010 and 59% in 2025. The increase of the proportion of older workers leads to new requirements concerning ergonomic conditions at workplaces. One important factor fundamentally related to ergonomics is acoustic communication. Both a comfortable speech communication and the perception of acoustic signals, e.g. alarm signals, are of outmost importance in modern economic processes. However, acoustic communication becomes increasingly difficult for older workers. Although there is a large variability in the individual vulnerability to hearing loss, the portion of people with hearing impairments inevitably increases with age. Already slight or moderate age-related hearing impairments, as often observed well before retirement age, can have considerable consequences on communication at work. Additionally, factors like occupational noise exposure over long periods or recreational noise (e.g. MP3-players, concerts) may add to the overall hearing loss.

Therefore, improving the acoustic conditions at workplaces using modern technologies not only increases productivity and the quality of work for the workers, but may in fact permit older workers to work at places formerly not accessible to them due to their hearing impairments. This offers new opportunities for enterprises in terms of increased internal flexibility, i.e. the possibility to transfer workers to different workplaces, which becomes increasingly important in the face of the rapidly changing conditions of today’s markets.

As part of the “Auditory Valley”, the Fraunhofer IDMT department Hearing, Speech and Audio Technology closely collaborates with other hearing-research institutions, universities and industry partners to reach the goal of “better hearing” for as many people as possible.

This contribution describes several ways to evaluate, predict, improve and simulate acoustic conditions at workplaces and therefore addresses possible solutions for the problems of the increasing portion of hearing-impaired people in modern economy.
Document type: Conference Paper
Publication: Emden, Germany, 10. - 11. September 2009
Conference: Fachtagung zur Bewältigung des demografischen Wandels (CHANGE 2009)
Files:
change_aaw_RenniesGoetzeAppell_2009.pdf66 KB
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Last change on 05.07.2010 by S. Goetze
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