There should be silent options when waiting on hold

Photo credit: cottonbro studio

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The Quiet Coalition’s John Drinkwater wrote a well-researched, thoughtful article for the January 2023 issue of The Hearing Journal advocating for silent options when waiting on hold.

As anyone who has tried to call a store, insurance company, government agency, doctor’s office, or pretty much anywhere else knows, most often you get a menu of choices. When you make a selection that requires speaking with a live human being, you are often placed on hold with some form of music loop. I have waited on hold as long as 45 minutes while trying to deal with an airline reservation problem.

The literature suggests the public is divided about hold music: some prefer hold music, some find the hold music stressful, and some don’t notice it at all. For many Americans with hearing loss, hyperacusis, and/or related post-traumatic stress disorder, having to listen to hold music can be very stressful, and for them it can be a significant hurdle to accessing a live human being when trying to resolve a problem on the phone.

Drinkwater suggests that entities have at least two widely available, negligible cost options for those who don’t want hold music: auto call-back or silence. I know from personal experience that many organizations already offer a call-back option, but I usually prefer to wait on hold while I do something else at my desk rather than wait for the return call. More choice sounds like a good idea to me.

The article already has had an impact on entities large and small. Drinkwater shared a draft with his local doctor, who is part of a national group of health care clinics. They are adding both options throughout their four-state region. The local county council on aging presented a draft at its staff meeting and immediately started reprogramming their phones.

There also has been interest from two senate offices in Washington. Demonstrating strong public interest will help make these options widely available. Please share with us your thoughts and we will pass them on.

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