In the field of security, communication is vital. Radio earpieces allow security professionals to communicate discreetly over reasonably long distances.
Earpieces allow warnings to be conveyed, threats to be assessed and important information to be shared between colleagues in real-time.
They also facilitate ‘hands free’ communication, which is useful in situations wherein both hands are otherwise occupied. As a result, earpieces are an essential part of most security operatives’ equipment.
But which earpiece is right for YOU?
In this brief guide, we’ll take a comprehensive look at radio earpieces and hopefully help you to answer that question.
What Should a Security Operative Look for in an Earpiece?
What follows is a list of questions and considerations that should be taken into account when purchasing an earpiece.
Which Radio are you Using?
This is a very important consideration, as most brands have their own connector. Therefore, if you’re using an earpiece made by ‘Company A’, but the radio it’s connected to was manufactured by ‘Company B’, then the earpiece simply won’t connect, and you won’t be able to use it.
In some cases, a connector can look almost identical to one manufactured by a different company, but even when the design is very similar, the high likelihood is that it will still be incompatible.
Keep earpieces in mind when you select a radio and vice versa.
There is such a thing as a universal connector. These allow you to have one earpiece and simply change the connectors so that it can be used for different brands.
Universal connectors can be a godsend for security operatives who work in various locations and for multiple clients, as they can connect one earpiece to almost any radio network.
What do you Need it for?
There is a greater variety of earpieces available than you may have realised, but most are suited to a specific job or set of circumstances.
The first thing you’ll need to do is consider what you’re going to be using the earpiece for. Are you a Door Supervisor for a busy nightclub, or providing close protection for somebody important? Are you a lone worker, or do you have colleagues nearby? The answers to these and other questions will help to determine what kind of earpiece you are looking for.
Overt or Covert?
One of the first decisions a security operative should make when choosing an earpiece is whether they require an ‘overt’ or ‘covert’ model.
The presence of an overt earpiece can be a great deterrent to would-be troublemakers.
Once they see the earpiece, troublemakers know that the operative before them can – and, if need be, will – call for back-up at any time. They might be willing to try their luck against one operative, but the earpiece introduces an unknown element for the troublemaker.
Covert earpieces, on the other hand (or, if you prefer, ear), are designed to be discreet. They don’t advertise their presence, and thus lack the deterrent factor. They are however very useful in situations where the company or client doesn’t want to advertise the presence of security operatives.
Additionally, an operative using a covert earpiece can seamlessly blend in with a large crowd of people. Many troublemakers will intentionally avoid the watchful gaze of security operatives. However, if some of those operatives are dressed in plain clothes and making their way through a crowd, they can spot potential problems and react accordingly.
All things considered; overt earpieces are better for general use. They are also easier to clean and maintain, but covert earpieces are better for operations where discretion is the name of the game.
You might also consider using a remote speaker mic, but while they have their uses, these are not at all covert, as the message you receive will simply play through the chest-attached speaker and be audible to everyone in the vicinity.
For how Long will you be Wearing it?
Although most earpieces are reasonably comfortable (not being much more intrusive than, say, a pair of earbuds), others can become uncomfortable after protracted use. If you regularly work long shifts, you may wish to consider this before making a purchase.
Generally, ‘D-ring’ and ‘G-shaped’ earpieces are less comfortable over time than an acoustic tube setup. In some cases, adding an in-ear mould to an acoustic tube model can be more comfortable than the supplied mushroom mould.
In any instance, it’s worth remembering that you will likely be wearing this earpiece for long periods of time, so it must feel basically comfortable and fit generally well.
Push to Talk (PTT) Buttons
A ‘push to talk’ or PTT button mutes your microphone until it is pressed. This prevents miscommunications, misunderstandings and potential embarrassment and generally makes the entire security team more efficient. It also helps to keep the ambient noise levels down while sending a message.
PTT buttons work instantly and are highly effective, especially for loud or busy venues and events. We recommend choosing an earpiece with a PTT button or feature, as they are very useful.
1, 2 & 3 Wire Kits
It’s important to decide whether you want to use a 1, 2 or 3 wire earpiece kit. If you’re unsure what that means, you can follow this guide.
A 1-wire kit includes a radio, a chest-attached PTT mic and an earpiece. These are all connected by the same wire, hence the name.
A 2-wire kit features the same setup as a 1-wire kit, but in this case, the PTT mic is attached to the sleeve as opposed to the chest. This setup requires 2 wires instead of 1.
A 3-wire kit, for its part, includes 3 wires that all connect to the radio. The first wire connects the radio to the PTT mic and attaches to the sleeve, the second connects to the earpiece itself and the third connects to a concealed microphone, which can be hidden about the operative’s person.
Finally, there are Wireless kits. These kits utilize an in-ear grommet which is connected to either a neck loop receiver or a receiver pack situated behind the collar. The grommet connects to the receiver via a low-level radio frequency. A 2 or 3-wire kit can then be used to complete the setup.
Consider these options carefully before making your selection.
Kevlar is a material with a very high tensile strength, but, unlike most tough materials, it is also very light. For this reason, Kevlar (which can be manufactured for multiple uses) is used in the manufacture of any number of protective and hard-wearing materials (anything from protective vests to tents).
Although Kevlar does degrade over time, most earpieces do not last long enough for this to become a problem.
Kevlar cables are a good choice because they are hard-wearing and quite durable. Regular earpiece wires can snag in your pocket and become stretched or otherwise damaged, sometimes negatively affecting the performance of the device. With Kevlar-braided cables, this is far less likely – and improves the life expectancy of your device overall.
Kevlar cables are also less likely to be damaged while restraining an unruly patron, or while engaging in other strenuous activities while the device is in use.
Kevlar cabling is neither essential, nor perfect (it won’t, for example, offer much protection from being crushed), but it can certainly be a useful addition.
Earpieces do carry with them a few health concerns, which it would be remiss of us not to discuss here.
The first concern is bacteria, which can arrive in the ear if the earpiece picks up dirt from your pockets, or from any number of other sources. If your earpiece is not kept clean (ideally, it should be wiped after each use), ear infections, rashes and even allergic reactions can occur.
Another area of concern is earwax build-up. Just as using cotton buds in your ears can cause cerumen (earwax) to become trapped and thus build up and harden (which can, in turn, cause temporary hearing loss), using earpieces for prolonged periods may also damage your hearing.
Loud volumes may permanently affect your hearing, as well as rupture your eardrums, as the sound is being sent directly down the ear canal, so it’s best to keep your earpiece’s volume to a sensible level wherever possible.
Health concerns should never be ‘shrugged off’. We recommend taking regular breaks from your earpiece whenever it is possible to do so, cleaning it regularly and always keeping the volume to a decent level.
Always Look for Quality
A good earpiece, kept and cleaned well, can last between 12 and 18 months. Be sure to purchase a good model from a trusted brand. Always read reviews online or consult with colleagues when you’re thinking of making a purchase.
You might be able to buy a cheaper earpiece that offers inferior quality. Not only is this not ideal for practical use (the idea is to communicate quickly and efficiently), but it can also represent false economy, as a cheaper model will likely need replacing regularly, a fact that could end up costing you more money in the long run.
If you’re buying an earpiece, we suggest you consider these key points before making your purchase. There’s more to consider than most people realise.