When we think of the loud, constant, and often jarring sounds we contend with on a daily basis, we tend to think of them as “annoyances.” They’re irritating, interruptive, and have a way of getting on your nerves.

According to research from the premium audio equipment manufacturer EPOS, 95 percent of the modern workforce today admits that their concentration at work suffers from audio setbacks. Forty-four percent of end-users report poor sound quality while making phone calls; 39 percent feel the same about internet calls.

But this “bad audio” goes well beyond merely “annoying.” It has a profoundly negative and debilitating effect on our well-being, leading to negative impacts on productivity, performance, and overall well-being.

Jesper Kock, Vice President of Research and Development for EPOS, says bad audio can have profound effects on performance and health. 

“If you’ve ever experienced a day filled with interrupted and inefficient calls it can feel exhausting,” Kock says. “This is because the brain is wasting unnecessary energy and cognitive capacity to focus on the relevant and desired sound.”

How serious are the effects?

“Chronic brain fatigue and increased levels of cortisol can lead to long-term issues,” Kock explains. “Exposure to noises that activate a stress response will inevitably wear an individual down, causing both mental and physical problems. When extrapolated over a period spanning days, weeks, and months this can have a surprisingly detrimental impact on your well-being. “

Bad audio has taken on an entirely new dimension during the COVID-19 pandemic. While there are many noises associated with a typical workday, working from home presents an entirely new set of noises and distractions, especially if you happen to have school-age children at home.

“With much of the global workforce continuing to work remotely, background noise continues to be a major threat not only to our productivity but to our health,” Kock says.

“These interruptive sounds might be a concentration killer, but they are also negatively impacting our health. While some might think that continued exposure might lead to habituation, this is incorrect. The effects of interruptive sounds can exacerbate stress-related conditions like high blood pressure, headaches, and even coronary diseases.” 

Negative impacts extend to business

These auditory distractions also have seriously negative impacts on business. Audio pain points are adding up to lost productivity. In fact, on average end-users are losing 29 minutes per week due to poor sound quality on voice calls. For the average full-time worker, this equates to just over three days of lost time, and from an employer perspective, this lost productivity has significant cost repercussions.

Decision-makers surveyed by EPOS noted that poor audio quality on calls has meant dissatisfied clients, financial loss due to incorrectly undertaking a task, loss of a key piece of work and deals--all resulting in financial loss to the company. 

The solution: noise cancellation headsets and beyond

The good news is that there are audio technology solutions that can minimize these deleterious consequences. EPOS, for example, builds headsets that provide users with the benefit of passive noise cancelation but add an extra level of noise reduction by effectively removing lower frequency sound waves.

They have raised the bar on active noise cancellation (ANC) technology with their latest ADAPT headset product series, which uses pioneering Hybrid ANC technology. These solutions are specifically designed to adjust to the noise challenges of open office environments and beyond. They have the ability to isolate and pick up only the sound of the person who is speaking--even if they are in an environment with a lot of unwanted stimuli.

The technology detects ambient noise and generates anti-noise to cancel it out before it reaches the user’s ears. The result is a dramatic increase in the worker’s ability to concentrate in noisy environments, and it boosts general well-being throughout the working day.

While EPOS audio solutions are not inexpensive, Kock insists the premium investment more than pays for itself.

“When you invest in a quality audio solution, you’re not only investing in your people, you’re investing in your business,” he says. “We know that within the 2020 context, the importance of quality audio solutions is only rising.”

“The size of your business doesn’t matter--we’re all facing the same challenges. Audio quality has now become key to maintaining client, employee, and partner communication, and this has been exponentially increased as workforces continue to work remotely. Effective call quality leads to better customer service, stronger employee engagement, and greater collaboration.”