Headset info PART TWO

Advice and answers from Dr. Wendy Kopfschmerzen, Certified Headset Therapist

  • A headset should be selected for the person who will use it, the phone it will be used with, and the environment it will be used in. If you need help making a headset decision, please call toll-free 1.888.225.3999 or send email.

  • People who share desks, at different times of the day, or on different days of the week, shouldn't share headsets. Headsets are personal, like toothbrushes and hairbrushes. Everyone deserves his or her own headset.

  • If a new employee gets a hand-me-down headset, freshen it up with new earpad(s) and wind screen (the foam "glove" that may go over the microphone) or voice tube (if it has one). Give it a good overall cleaning with a couple of alcohol wipes, and untangle the cord.

  • Headsets need a place to stay when they are not on someone's head, so they don't get lost or dropped and stomped on or rolled over. Wireless headsets can sit on their chargers. Some switchboxes for wired headsets come with headset hanging stands. You might find a (discontinued) headset stand at Radio Shack. Ikea makes an inexpensive desktop note holder that can be easily adapted for headset use. You can even bend a wire coat hanger or a paper clip. Do something.

  • Telephones are not hi-fi. The frequency range used in traditional phone calls goes from approximately 300 to 3,000 Hz, a much narrower band of frequencies than humans can speak and hear. According to research published by Polycom, two-thirds of the frequencies in which the human ear is most sensitive and 80% of the frequencies in which speech occurs, are beyond the capabilities of the public telephone network, largely unchanged since the 1930s. The human ear is most sensitive at 3.3 kHz, just where the telephone network cuts off. The Internet is capable of much wider bandwidth, therefore VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calls can sound much better than traditional phone calls, IF you have one of the new wideband headsets and a VoIP phone, or use a PC for VoIP calls. People will sound better. It will be easier to tell if you are talking to your cousin or your uncle, and there will be less need to ask if he said bill or pill.

  • Most headset makers offer extension cords that will allow you to roam a bit from your desk, but they are MESSY, and can trip people. If you have the urge to wander, get a wireless headset.

  • Over-the-head headsets are usually more secure (i.e. better for moving around) than over-the-ear headsets, but weigh more than over-the-ear headsets.

  • Over-the-ear headsets won't mess up your hair, and look less geeky than over-the-head headsets.

  • If you work in a noisy environment, consider headsets with noise-canceling microphones and/or binaural receivers (for both ears). A binaural headset will minimize the ambient noise that you hear. A noise-canceling microphone will minimize the ambient noise that the other person hears coming from your phone.

  • Headsets with longer microphone booms will make your voice sound stronger, with less echo and less background noise, than headsets with short booms.

  • Most Bluetooth headsets used with cellphones are compact, with microphones that will be far from your mouth. Most of the time, they work quite well; but they can pick up nearby noises and voices. If you need to use your phone in a very noisy location, it may be better NOT to use your Bluetooth headset.

  • A wireless headset for an office phone is a great convenience, saving time, increasing privacy and productivity, and removing the tether from your head to your desk.

  • If you're using a wireless headset with a desk phone that can be programmed for headset or handset use, such as a Panasonic KX-T7400 series phone, keep it in the handset mode.

  • If you are using a wireless headset with a desk phone that has a dedicated headset jack, like many Nortel models, plug the wireless base into the handset jack, not the headset jack.

  • If people complain that they can't hear you loudly enough, make sure that your microphone has not slipped away from your mouth.

  • DON'T try to save money by skipping the remote handset lifter for a wireless headset (unless you have a phone that doesn't need a lifter). It's a vital piece of the package, and you'll miss a lot of the wireless advantage if you don't get one.

  • If you're installing a remote handset lifter, find the right spot BEFORE you remove the protective strips from the double-stick tape.

  • When you get a new headset, particularly a wireless or Bluetooth model, learn the various button functions and what the different beeps mean, before you start using it; so you don't something stupid like accidentally hanging up a call.

  • If you're getting a wired (corded) headset, consider one with a quick-disconnect cord. It will let you keep the headset on your head if you have to walk away from your desk, and also protects you from getting your neck snapped, or having your headset go flying off, if you get up to leave your desk without remembering to remove your headset.

  • If you have a weak voice or tend to mumble, get a headset with a long boom that puts the microphone close to your mouth; and look for a switchbox with adjustable transmit volume. Most only allow you to adjust receive volume.

  • If you buy extra headsets so you can equip an unexpected new employee or replace a damaged unit, test it when it comes in. Don't let it sit in a closet, only to find it doesn't work when needed, and its warranty has expired.

  • If you get bursts of static when you adjust the volume on a headset switchbox, squirt in a bit of electronic contact cleaner. You can get it at Radio Shack.

  • Don't use a binaural headset while driving. It may block important sounds, like horns and police sirens.

  • A headset earpiece that goes inside the ear should be cleaned regularly, and definitely not shared by several people, or handed down from one person to another.

  • If you suddenly have trouble being heard with a voice tube headset, make sure nothing -- such as a tiny bit of tobacco or food -- is clogging the tube. If the blockage is dry, it may come out with a tap or two. If it's wet or sticky, try a needle or small paper clip, or remove the tube and use a blast of canned air (dust remover spray) from the end that attaches to the earpiece.

  • If you eat or drink at your desk, remove your headset or flip up the microphone boom. Your warranty won't cover damage from dipping your microphone into a cup of coffee or bowl of chili.

  • There seem to be two different kids of wireless headsets, Bluetooth, and whatever the other kind is called. What's the difference? Which is better?


Bluetooth is a wireless technology standard that uses a short-range (up to about 30 feet) radio link to carry voice and data between two Bluetooth compatible devices. The technology was named for the Danish king Harald Blåtand (Bluetooth) who unified Denmark and Norway in the 10th Century. There is no specific name for non-Bluetooth wireless headsets, but they generally offer considerably more wireless range than Bluetooth -- up to 300 feet horizontally, and up and down several floors in a building. These headsets operate in several radio frequency bands, including 900MHz, 1.9GHz and 2.4GHz. If you have a wireless computer network, it's probably best to NOT get a headset that works at 2.4GHz. Bluetooth does work in the 2.4GHz band, but uses a variety of electronic techniques to avoid interference.









  • I don't understand why expensive wireless headsets need those clunky-looking remote handset lifter thingees to pick up a call. With all of our advanced electronics, why do we need mechanical kludges to answer or hang up. This seems like something from 1950. Why are the headset makers so stupid?

It's really not the fault of the headset makers -- it's the telephone makers (and they're not really stupid). When you are sitting at your desk, and you want to pick up or hang up while using your headset, the newest phones let you do it by just tapping a button, which makes the phone "live" and sends signals through the headset jack.


Unfortunately, there is no industry standard for the headset button, so there is no way for the headset makers to emulate their function remotely. The only almost-standard functions on phones, is the physical picking up and hanging up of the handset, so that's what the headset makers have to work with.


To get beyond the kludges, would take a major effort by one or more major phone makers, and it probably won't happen any time soon. Fortunately, today's remote lifters are far beyond 1950's technology, and are quiet, quick and reliable.

Some phone makers, such as NEC, offer phones with internal switching to eliminate the need for handset-lifters.