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Anyone has any advice on how to deal with explosive noises coming through the headset (Conference interpreting) with a client who repeatedly bangs on the table and microphone? The client has been advised this is a serious risk for staff listening to the audio track (incl. interpreters), but wants additional information about the "real" risk.

asked 01 Dec '16, 15:21

Anne's gravatar image


edited 01 Dec '16, 15:25

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

The EUCJ's interpreting service does prevent problems to some extent by organizing info sessions where the EU Justices also have a go in the booth to see how it is. The PR work leads to interpreters being well considered and the difficulty of their work recognized. There's a nice ripple effect, as regular users in the room would interrupt speakers as problems occur (speed, mic, etc.), even before the chef d'équipe could have intervened or without the booths having to ask for corrective action on mic. As the reminder usually is issued by the most important person in the courtroom, there's no room left for discussions about how important it really is to do or not to do certain things. The people who call the shots do know that all we want is to be able to provide them with the best level of service.

The client has been advised this is a serious risk for staff listening to the audio track (incl. interpreters), but wants additional information about the "real" risk.

This sounds like the relationship with that one client/customer is almost beyond repair. If they aren't willing to cooperate and don't take your concerns seriously, there isn't much you could do other than using the ultima ratio, refusing to work for them.

Depending where that one client is in the meeting's food chain, you could also go through the chair of the meeting to make sure the speaker be reminded by someone above him, in public, of how one should behave. Or find someone of equal rank as the troublemaker who listens to the speaker directly and who is annoyed by the sounds as well. They could be your ally and ask him to be more careful.

If all that doesn't help and if the situation becomes unbearable...

If it's a private client and if you believe your health and safety are at stake, make use of the liberty the freelance status brings and drop the client.

If it's an institutional client and if you're on their payroll, raise your health and safety concerns to your employer's medical service. Let them explain how tinnitus and noice induced hearing loss can ruin one's life & career and come at a great cost for the employer - maybe even getting an expert on board (Dr. Robert Sweetow is worth looking into) if the trade union is willing to take up the issue. If that isn't enough and your client doesn't change his behavior, refuse interpreting him. You'll have evidence of the risks and enough reasons as an employee to use your right of withdrawal.

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answered 02 Dec '16, 05:42

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦

edited 02 Dec '16, 05:54

Quite apart from the risk it's very unpleasant. Ask him to put his headphones on while you bang on your microphone!!

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answered 02 Dec '16, 03:08

Andy's gravatar image


It is a very serious health and safety concern. It is very easy to lose your hearing in these conditions. usually it is the job of an audio tech to install volume limiters in a simul setup and some manufacturers include these systems by default eg Earpatron by Beyerdynamic

Unfortunately in less advanced setups hearing protection technology is not installed by default. it is also true for homemade setups such as interpreting over the phone from home.

Asking the client to be mindful will not work and there is never any guarantee there will not be any accidental bumps.

You are limited to 2 options:

1) refuse to work in these conditions or 2) buy a noise limiting headset for adults. The headset has hardware that limits sound pressure to 85db usually.

The headsets are manufactures both for children and adults so you need to look for an adult version.

keep in mind that for simul you need a semi open headset and not open or closed.

Here is an example of such a headset to give you an idea, but it is a closed model

you need a semi open headset to be able to hear yourself.

Other considerations: - always use both ears and not one in simul, it will allow you to listen at a lower volume and may save your hearing in case of feedback or explosive noise. - reduce volume to absolute minimum. learn to speak at the softest volume yourself. It will allow you to reduce headset volume even more. - consider a headset designed specifically for simul eg - prefer headsets for voice reproduction and not for music. - NEVER buy in ear monitors ie headsets that go into your ear canals. here is an example: The sound emitting membrane is too colse to your eardrum and may damage it in case of overload.

It is eventually your professional responsibility to protect your hearing.

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answered 29 Dec '16, 20:42

Cyril%20Flerov's gravatar image

Cyril Flerov

correct microphone placement is also the responsibility of the audio tech. it seems he is not doing his job: a tabletop mic must be located at a distance so that bumping it when it is hot is avoided. It may mean a more more background noise but there is nothing to be done about it. Discuss mic placement with your tech. Consider lapel mics for the speaker - it is much harder to bump them.

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answered 29 Dec '16, 21:02

Cyril%20Flerov's gravatar image

Cyril Flerov

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question asked: 01 Dec '16, 15:21

question was seen: 2,726 times

last updated: 29 Dec '16, 21:02 is a community-driven website open to anyone with questions and/or answers about interpreting, i.e. spoken language translation

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