September 18, 2020
Acoustic shocks – prevalent and largely unreported
Research Committee

Acoustic shocks – sudden noises causing auditory injury– are a serious risk for conference interpreters.

A first-of-its-kind study by the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) has assessed and defined the prevalence of acoustic shocks among AIIC members, and identified the effects on the health of affected interpreters. 

The AIIC study was undertaken by the AIIC Research Committee (RC), Technical & Health Committee (THC) and AIIC Canada Region in collaboration with Canadian audiologist and acoustic shocks specialist Dr Philippe Fournier, of the Aix-Marseille University in France.

Data was collected in two phases from more than a thousand AIIC members between September 2019 and June 2020. Analysis showed a high prevalence of acoustic incidents and acoustic shocks, affecting between 47% and 67% of the respondents. Their symptoms ranged in severity from mild and temporary to severe and permanent, but the majority of cases are never officially reported.

The authors urge the interpreter community to prioritize hearing health. They list ten recommendations targeted at interpreters, conference participants, sound technicians, employers of interpreters, or health agencies, and underline the need for training, prevention, medical monitoring, as well as encourage further research on specific findings.